We Were Running Out of Domain Names – Here’s What Changed

Every website needs a domain name. There’s plenty of scope for inventive domain names, even with rather standard .com, .co.uk, or .net suffixes. But even these are starting to hit their limits. In fact, all combinations of 2-, 3- and 4-letter .com domains have been claimed. The prospect that we could run out of domain names was becoming a reality.

The system had to change. So, back in 2011, the systems were radically altered to permit new and inventive suffixes, called “top-level domains” or TLDs. Rather than settling for a generic .biz or .net address, novel TLDs like .active, .radio, .rentals, .dance, and .gifts are readily available.

So what changed? Let’s take a look.

What are TLDs (Top-Level Domains)?

Put very simply, a TLD or “top-level domain” is the last part of a domain name, placed after the dot – .com, .org, and .net are all well-known examples of top level domains. They’re called “top-level” domains because they sit at the highest level within the internet’s naming system for domains – the Domain Name System (DNS).

As well as commonly known TLDs like .gov, .info, and .biz (called gTLDs – Generic Top-Level Domains), there are also ccTLDs (country code TLDs) which have been added over the years. These are two-character TLDs that are reserved for use by specific countries or territories; for example: .uk is reserved for the United Kingdom, .fr is reserved for France, .no is reserved for Norway, and so on. As of 2019, there are over 200 of these territory-specific codes.

Top-level domains are overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) through an arm called IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). Prior to 2011, those registering a new domain name will have only had 22 generic TLDs to choose from aside from their respective country code TLD. But nowadays, you have a choice of over 1,000 TLDs to choose from like .photo, .agency, and .tennis.

Running Out of Domains?

Technically, any part of a domain name (before or after the dot) can be up to 256 characters long, but it also needs to be practical and memorable. Therefore, the best domain names are short domain names.

Additionally, when companies have similar names, a smaller pool of TLD options can cause confusion and even disputes. Google’s parent company Alphabet doesn’t own the obvious choice of alphabet.com – that’s owned by a subsidiary of BMW called Alphabet. It took Apple Inc. 16 years to get hold of apple.co.uk – which was formerly owned by a company called Apple Illustration. Nissan.com isn’t owned by a Japanese car manufacturer. Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. paid $11m for the domain tesla.com.

There’s also the issue of “domain squatters” – unscrupulous types who purposely register in-demand domain names and keep them until someone wants to buy… at a grossly inflated price of course.

It was only a matter of time before the practical .com, .biz, and .info domains of this world started to run out. The existing system just wasn’t scalable. So in 2011, ICANN made a huge announcement that would change the web forever.

The Solution: More Top-Level Domains!

In 2011, ICANN’s board decided to accept applications for new top-level domains to solve this scalability problem. More choice of TLDs also allows for greater freedom of expression; ICANN Chairman Peter Thrush was quoted as saying “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”

These new gTLDs are overseen by ICANN/IANA, but are operated by third party registry operators. As of February 2019, there are now 1,232 gTLDs to choose from, including .app, .blog, .dentist, .software, the list goes on! Having more options helps to keep things fair and accessible for organisations large and small.

To illustrate the increased choice, let’s look at an example. Say that the team here at OLCO Design wanted to change our domain name to just “olco”. We can’t register olco.co.uk or olco.com as they are already taken, and we may not want to settle for another, older gTLD like olco.biz. With the previous smaller pool of gTLDs, we’d have been out of luck. However, under the new system, we have a choice of olco.agency, olco.design, olco.marketing, and many more.

New TLDs provide a lot more room for companies to come up with creative and memorable domain names. Remember our alphabet.com example from earlier? Google’s parent company may not own the “obvious” choice for it’s URL, but it does own the rather imaginative abc.xyz.

The Benefits of New TLDs

So what are the benefits of using one of the new TLDs? Though they’ve been available for the best part of a decade, they’ve only started to reach common usage in the past few years. Therefore there’s still a certain novelty factoring using an unusual TLD – it adds to the memorability of your domain name, email addresses, and overall online appearance.

New TLDs provide more scope for creativity – even playfulness. Let’s look at a few creative examples:

  • davetheseo.guru
  • yetanothermarketing.agency
  • janearranges.flowers
  • secondhandbmw.motorcycles

Even subtly using a TLD adds a certain memorable flair:

  • andrespizzeria.pizza
  • patelandsmithsolicitors.law
  • davisand.associates
  • theoldtattooparlour.ink

If someone has already claimed the domain you want, you can easily register the same domain name under a different, more novel TLD. It may be a tad cliché, but when it comes to inventive domain names nowadays, the only limit is your imagination!

In need of a new domain, web hosting, or managed cloud services? As well as impressive design and marketing services, we offer a suite of website, domain, and email management services. Call the team at OLCO on 0330 223 1193 for a friendly chat today.

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