Generic Top Level Domains or gTLD’s for short are the last part of your domain extension. This is typically either .com, .net, .org, or .edu. Below is the anatomy for a typical URL for reference:
Some Background on gTLDs
Most people don’t think about this when they start their websites but .com was originally formed as the gtld for commercial organizations, the .net gTLD was created for network infrastructures, .org for organizations, & .edu (of course) for educational sites. gTLD’s all have intended uses and are classified as either restricted or unrestricted, restricted gTLD’s such as .edu & .gov require some sort of verification to be registered. Unrestricted gTLD’s can be registered by any person or organization for any use. There are various levels of restriction for each restricted gTLD, depending on their classification. gTLD’s are maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authoirty (IANA), which is a division of ICANN.
A Short History of gTLDs
The history of gTLDs starts in 1985 when the first 5 original gTLDs were released: .com, .org, .net, .edu, & .gov.
From 1985 to 2011 a small amount of new gTLDs were released, a few notable mentions are: .info & .biz in 2001, .jobs in 2005, and .mobi in 2006.
ICANN Opens gTLDs
Then on June 20th, 2011, ICANN did something unprecedented and released the wide world of gTLDs to the public. With this change ICANN opened the doors to registering new gTLD’s for their approval and to be released on the open market. With a hefty $185,000 application fee and a $25,000 annual renewal fee and a lengthy application guideline, you can register almost any gTLD conceivable. What were the results? Between 2012-2015, 661 new gTLDs have either been released or are planning on being released. In order to visualize this gTLD explosion let’s take a look at this recent infographic published by the European Domain Centre:
So the question now becomes what does this mean for your business?
The big benefit is that the need to fight for your coveted .com is no more as you can now get much more specific to your industry for your TLD. Chances are there is a gTLD related to your business. The price of these new gTLD’s varies and many are more expensive than traditional .com/.net/.org registrations. Something else worth noting is that many of these new gTLDs are restricted and require some sort of verification depending on the vertical. But the vast majority are unrestricted which has led to a new gold rush that is comparable to the .com gold rush of the 90’s. There are many reasons to consider a new gTLD for your business. The first would be simply to lock down the gTLD associated with your business type, for example if your business is named “Garcia Accounting” it would probably be in your best interest to acquire garcia.accounting and simply redirect it to your current site. Transferring your current site and emails to a new gTLD domain could be quite cumbersome, but if you are considering securing a new domain then one of the new gTLDs is a great option. There is a much higher likelihood that the name you are looking for will be available in the form of a new gTLD rather than with a traditional .com/.net/.org. Another consideration is registering a gTLD just for your business and companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, & Marriott have already taken this step. However with the steep price for applying a new gTLD, this is reserved only for companies with a hefty budget.
What about SEO?
There has been an ongoing myth in the SEO community that Google takes preference to certain types of gTLDs but Matt Cutts (Google’s Head of Web Spam) debunked this in a Google+ post back in 2012. When asked if certain TLDs take favor over others he responded, “Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD).” It’s safe to say that Google will not take preference to any form of gTLD and will continue to return results based purely on relevancy.