It’s remarkable to think that the World Wide Web was completely unregulated for the first seven years of its life. As consumers discovered a world of dial-up opportunity, and companies scrambled to establish an online presence, self-styled entrepreneurs were engaging in some thoroughly disreputable activities. These included registering
The wild web
By 1998, this digital Wild West was abruptly halted by the launch of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Their job was to regulate domain registration, allocating a parent company to each generic top level domain (gTLD) and insisting on ownership credentials for every domain sold. ICANN quickly recognised that the ubiquitous .com needed real competition, over and above the country code TLDs allocated to nation states.
The rollout of new generic website domains began in 2001 with five ICANN-approved gTLDs – .biz, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. In 2014, the trickle became a flood when over 200 domains made their debuts, from .academy and .army to .wiki and .xyz. Hundreds more have followed subsequently, though 2018 saw relatively few website domains being introduced.
Do we need more domains?
ICANN has succeeded in its original mission to alleviate demand for .com domains, bringing their cost back in line with other website domains after a period of rampant price growth. It has also ensured we will never run out of website domains. It’s considered newsworthy that every three-letter .com domain in existence has now been registered. However, there are billions of longer .com addresses as yet unclaimed. While it’s frustrating to discover the desired .com address has already been registered, a wealth of alternative domain suffixes will be available. Our site will offer numerous alternatives if a .com address is already in use, even for highly generic terms like Astra.
Many of the gTLDs launched over the last two decades have been met with indifference, some even with outright hostility. Some (like .gq and .men) have become synonymous with spam sites and low-quality content. Others like .living, .gives, .lol never took off to any discernible extent. It’s doubtful you’ve ever visited a website with one of these suffixes, and chances are you probably never will. Indeed, many gTLDs aren’t worth considering because of negative associations. Search engines automatically downgrade domains whose TLDs are associated with spam or malware.