New web domains fail to attract brands

09 November 2011

CINCINNATI: Large US brand owners including Procter & Gamble (P&G) and HP may shun a programme that allows brands to create their own bespoke URL suffixes.

Not one of the 21 S&P 500-listed firms polled by Bloomberg Businessweek confirmed they were planning to apply for one of the personalised domains.

Earlier this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a government-supported nonprofit firm that controls the global system of URL suffixes such as ".com" and ".net", announced its plans to open up the system and grant permission for user-submitted suffixes from next year.

Under the new rules, a New York-based firm can apply to have its website converted to ".nyc", or a brand owner can apply for a suffix to be named as its brand. For example, Unilever might purchase ".axe" or ".knorr".

ICANN will open the applications process in January 2012, with each submission costing $185,000.

"Organisations, causes, start-ups and even cities will be able to apply for their own web domain," ICANN said when announcing the change in September. "This represents a fundamental change to the way we use the Internet and many feel this will offer new global branding and marketing opportunities."

Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, Gary Elliott, vice president of global marketing at HP, said: "There's a tremendous amount of confusion about what [the change] means and what the costs are."

A P&G spokesman added that the brand owner had no plans to take part, and would instead "focus on our existing .com sites and other ways to connect with consumers".

The National Retailer Federation, a U.S. retail industry group, also expressed scepticism about the new system.

"With the application date just months away, there's not time to think all this through," Mallory Duncan, the organisation's general counsel, said.

But other firms, including GM and Wal-Mart, said that they were still deciding whether or not they would purchase a new URL suffix.

Data sourced from Bloomberg Businessweek/ICANN; additional content by Warc staff