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As you may have heard, the day has finally come for the release of new Generic Top-Level Domains, or gTLDs, on the Internet. Though many are available today, more will be part of a measured rollout over time. According to ICANN, this expansion will take available gTLDs – like .com, .biz, and .org, from 22 to 1400. At the end of this post, you’ll find a great infographic from Webmechanix that gives the details, important numbers, and a partial list of the new TLDs that have been (and will be) released by category.

So what does all this mean for your small business? As with any new development in industry, there are upsides and downside to the release of new Top-Level Domains. Here’s a quick overview:

The Good:
Not only will these be great for big brands (Sneakers.Nike, anyone?), the will also benefit small business owners who are quick on the draw and are able to snap up some really smart names that really support their brand. Like a florist who might grab flower.shop. Another benefit comes for business owners whose ideal custom domain names might have been taken before they could get them, either by domain squatters or by legitimate competitors. So if flowershop.biz would cost a fortune to get back from a squatter, flower.shop is a great alternative.

The Bad:
As with any new evolution in tech, there are risks to being an early adopter. Security might not be as tight, etc. The other potential pitfall here is that consumers have grown comfortable with the top-level domains on the web to the point where it’s pretty easy to guess a business’s web address even if you don’t know it for sure. With these new naming conventions, the onus will be on the consumer to seek out each company’s website. And while that doesn’t seem terribly difficult, you never want to create any more barriers than necessary between a consumer and the purchase of your product.

The (Potentially) Ugly:
Because people will be unfamiliar with this new convention for some time, the potential for abusing the system is there. Imagine you have a website at BobsWebsites.com, where you retain customer information. Someone with a little cunning and design ability to easily replicate the design of your site at Bobs.Websites and hope that your customers might land on their copycat site and give up sensitive information. Now that might be a little glass-half-empty, but it’s probably no surprise to you that the internet is full of creepers, so it’s just something to think about.

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