This is my first domain-related post since October 2009 and no, I’m not going to regularly blog about domain names again in future. However, this particular issue is quite interesting in that it illustrates how domain investors are taking on a technological risk when buying domain names.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is soliciting comments on a recent ICANN Security and Stability Advisory (SSAC) report [PDF] on “dotless domains”, such as http://example. The public comment period ends this Sunday, September 23rd, so I urge you to get your comment in, if you want to be heard.
The idea of introducing dotless domains is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, they pose a potential risk to the owners of existing domains, because dotless domains would arguably reduce the value of traditional top-level domains. This is what I’ve been referring to as “technological risk” in the past. Most domain investors might not realize it, but the internet is constantly undergoing changes and there is no reason why domains should remain the generally accepted means of navigating the internet forever. For example, a large portion of mobile internet traffic is now going through apps. Traditional websites might become even less important in the not so distant future, as those growing up with smartphones and tablet computers account for an increasing share of internet users. As this trend intensifies, companies will be less dependent on generic domains. And as the issue at hand illustrates, changes to the domain name system can also influence the market value of your domain portfolio. Why should a company buy a Keyword.com domain if it can just own the “Keyword” domain? After all, it would no longer have to worry about all the other domain extensions anymore. If dotless domains were introduced, why should internet users even care about typing in an extension anymore? Simply typing in a keyword would be so much easier.
Secondly, dotless domains are interesting from a software perspective. Today’s internet browsers interpret keywords that are entered into the address bar differently. Certain browsers automatically append the “.com” suffix, others might interpret the keyword as a search query and forward the user to Google, for example. Another thought, how would this affect the email system as we know it?
Given these barriers in the internet infrastructure, I don’t think the introduction of dotless domains at this particular point in time is realistic. However, the discussion shows that domain owners cannot expect their domains to keep the intrinsic value they might have today forever. There are several threats to the value of .com domains that should not be ignored. Think about them before your next top-dollar domain purchase. How certain can you be that, ten years down the road, you will look back at your investment and still think that it was a good one?