A top-level domain is the last part of a web address, eg. .com or .org. These are generic ones that any organisation or individual can register. You also have country specific TLDs, such as .ie and .co.uk. And then you have a handful of other sponsored TLDs that represent a specific community, such as .mil for the U.S. military and .xxx for porn sites.
ICANN (the organisation that assigns these domains) recently opened applications for any TLDs and this week they released the list of first-wave applicants they have received. They included things like .google and .youtube from you-know-who, .catholic from the Vatican, and a bunch of people applying for common words like .home and .music.
Domain names have become like land and, because they are finite, are becoming more and more difficult to get your hands on. There are no 3-letter .com addresses available anymore. Any of you that have tried to register a domain for a specific campaign have probably found it's taken. By opening up these TLDs you are essentially creating more 'land' and it's potentially a massive money spinner. I don't know enough about it to say whether it's a good or bad thing, but at first glance it reminds me of the Celtic Tiger when everyone started building and buying apartments. That worked out fine, didn't it?
It wasn't cheap to apply, with the initial application alone costing applicants US$185,000, which is probably the main reason why there was no application for .oxfam and .amnesty, and why I decided against applying for any.
But there are a number of applications in there that are related to or may have an impact on the charity sector and I think these are worth looking at:
A private U.S. company named Donuts applied for this. Under various names they also applied for .fund, .gifts and around 300 other TLDs. Donuts are essentially a re-seller and, if they successfully register .charity then you will need to go through them to secure your new web address of www.oxfam.charity or www.concern.charity.
Donuts "intends to increase competition and consumer choice at the top level". In their own words, "The .CHARITY TLD will be of interest to the millions of persons and organizations worldwide involved in philanthropy, humanitarian outreach, and the benevolent care of those in need. This broad and diverse set includes organizations that collect and distribute funds and materials for charities, provide for individuals and groups with medical or other special needs, and raise awareness for issues and conditions that would benefit from additional resources. In addition, the term CHARITY, which connotes kindness toward others, is a means for expression for those devoted to compassion and good will. We would operate the .CHARITY TLD in the best interest of registrants who use the TLD in varied ways, and in a legitimate and secure manner."
But interestingly, on the application where it asks, "Is the application for a community-based TLD?" Donuts said 'No'.
Famous Four Media also applied for .charity and it is now up to ICANN to decide which company (if any) gets it.
The Public Internet Registry (the people that administer .org domains) applied for this. They are a not-for-profit corporation and this instills confidence in me. Maybe I'm being naive.
The American Heart Association applied for this TLD. I find this incredible that a charitable organisation can justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars it will cost to secure and maintain. I can not see any marketing benefit - people will still Google them. Their existing domain is www.heart.org. Do they really need .heart?
The only justifiable reason I can think of is as a fundraiser. If the AHA intends to re-sell .heart domains and they think they can make money from it then great.
Australian Cancer Research Foundation applied for this. Again, I don't see the point but I hope they'll show me.
The only thing I would say about this is why would you apply for .cancerresearch rather than .cancer? Nobody applied for .cancer. It seems like .cancer would be a far more awesome TLD to own.
JustGiving applied for .giving. Now I think JustGiving are incredible and rarely, if ever, put a foot wrong...but why do they need .giving? Is the cost justifiable?
My gut feeling is that this will be an add-on service for charities - charities will pay to secure the web address of oxfam.giving or barnardos.giving for their fundraising pages. By charging for this it might be worth it.
Presumably they would also look at giving fundraisers their own domain names. e.g. I could get simonscriver.giving (perhaps for a price?), but I just don't feel that's worthwhile. My own personal feeling is that people donate through these on-line portals via a link or a search from the homepage. They don't type in www.sponsor.ie/siscri - they either click that link or go to www.sponsor.ie and search for me.
Or perhaps they're looking to bring their international sites to one space. But wouldn't their existing justgiving.com be the logical place to do this?
I'm really interested to see what they're going to do with this if their application is successful.
Nobody applied for .give, .sponsor or .donate.
These applications will be processed over the next year with interested parties invited to contact ICANN with their thoughts.
From a charity point of view we have to hope that an influx of possible domains will drive down the cost of registering new sites. But if you're a charity and you're reading this I'm willing to bet you already have a domain name that you've been working on publicising and you're not about to go and change your main website.
Where it will come in handy is for micro-sites - dedicated sites for specific campaigns. Suddenly there will be a lot more choice for you.
So what does the opening of Top-Level Domains mean for the charity sector?