Does Your Website Need a Top-Level Domain?
A few years back, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) decided to open up the top-level domain registry to include branded domain extensions. With over 400 newly approved options, and thousands more on the way, business owners can now own their web address of choice with a .photography, .guru, or .lawyer extension should the coveted .com already be taken. But is it worth it?
As previously mentioned, the .com is the holy grail of domain extensions. Because of it's familiarity, most people usually default to ".com" when typing in your URL unless you make a major effort to promote your custom domain. That stated, if the .com domain of your choice is available, you should immediately snatch it up! But what if your top choice — or your second, third, or even last choice — isn't available?
If a comparable .com URL isn't available, it may make sense to use a themed top-level domain for your business. For example, if you're a partner in the fictional law firm of Smith & Evans and can't purchase smithandevans.com or any suitable variants, you may want to consider purchasing smithandevans.lawyer instead.
However, the biggest issue for larger brands and themed domains is copyright abuse. Many businesses have done their best to protect their brand by purchasing multiple relevant domain names, but as Amazon just showed the world, it can get a bit pricy. For some brands, it might be wise to purchase a .com, a .biz, as well as a branded domain name. To further assist with brand protection, ICANN also launched a trademark clearinghouse that is designed to help brands protect their trademarked names, with trademark registration available for approximately $150 per year.
As for the Clearinghouse service, it only sends a warning to buyers who purchase trademarked domain names. It doesn't actually prevent the sale of trademarked domain names. In order to properly ensure your brand's protection, you'll need to purchase each relevant domain name on an individual basis.
For more information on top-level domain availability, check out ICANN's site at www.icann.org.