Used to be if you were looking to register a domain name, .com or .org were the way to go. But if you’ve been following the domain name news from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), you know that over 1,000 new global top-level domains (gTLDs) have been approved recently: at a cost of $185,000 to each registered owner. And while some owners are keeping their pricey new real estate all to themselves, many are more than willing to allow others to use their extensions for a fee.
So now you can create and acquire a domain name with the extension of your choice so long as you’re willing to pony up, right? Well, not so fast. As Catchword found out while researching this new frontier for our clients—as well as attempting to acquire a handful of domain names with new extensions for ourselves—the road to a new gTLD domain name can be bumpy at best.
Once you’ve decided which gTLDs you’re interested in and have created your domain names, you will need to find out when the “pre-registration” period for each gTLD will begin. It’s then advisable to pre-register your names (for a fee) at the very first opportunity, using an online registrar like BulkRegister.
But let’s be clear: “pre-registration” is a misnomer, as we all too painfully discovered. “Hopeful waiting list” is more like it. What pre-registering amounts to is indicating your interest in a name, and getting into some manner of queue. But it’s no guarantee that you’ll get the name once the registration period for the general public begins. Why not? Well, as ICANN explains, it may be because:
• Your registrar isn’t “the one”: “Many gTLD Registries contract with multiple Registrars to provide registration services to Internet users. The Registrar you pre-register with may not be the Registrar that eventually registers the name.”
• The trademark trumps all: Those who submit verified trademarks have priority access to domain names related to those trademarks.
• Money talks: “Some Registries may choose to offer perceived premium names for registration to the highest bidder before they’re made available to the general public”
• It’s too good to sell: Many registries are simply holding back names they view as primo in anticipation of prices rising, essentially speculating on their own stock.
In Catchword’s case, of the two dozen gTLD domain names we’ve pre-registered to date, only a few were awarded to us. The others slipped through our fingers. It could have been due to any of the reasons listed above or—who knows? It’s a mystery. All we got by way of explanation from BulkRegister were two heartbreaking little words: “Not Awarded.”
Long story short, it’s a bit of a wild west out there. Even if you pre-register a name the moment the pre-registration period for that gTLD begins, you could be out of luck, for reasons best known to ICANN (or should it be YOUCANT?). So if you’re looking to acquire a domain name with a new extension, best to steel yourself for heartbreak—and pray.