The ever-expanding Internet is bursting out of its dot-com world and heading for new worlds of dot ... what?
Try dot-dog, dot-love or dot-movie.
These are just a few examples of the digital vastness beyond websites that end in dot-com, or even dot-org, dot-gov, dot-edu and a few others that have become familiar.
Hundreds of new Internet domains wait in the wings. And a local bank may be among the first to venture into one of the newest dot worlds.
Lead Bank, based in Garden City, Mo., changed its name a few years ago. Now, the bank is changing its generic top-level domain. In English, that means the bank is switching from a website that ends in dot-com to one that ends in dot-bank. At some point this summer, online customers who visit the usual site — leadbankonline.com — will end up at lead.bank instead.
For several years, reports have been telling us these other dot worlds were coming. We need new Internet domains because we’re running out of decent dot-com site names. And all the good website names open up again with each new dot (whatever) domain.
Since October 2013, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN, has officially delegated more than 600 new Internet domains. ICANN is on its way to designating more than 1,300 over the next few years.
Like dot-bank, for example.
And dot-guru. And dot-NYC, dot-pizza, dot-clothing, dot-run, dot-beer, dot-cancerresearch, dot-vegas, dot-IBM, dot-party, dot-technology and, well, it’s a long list.
These new domains, just like dot-com, are officially top level domains on the Internet.
Stick another word in front of one of them, like kitty.wtf, and you’ve got a real website for making cat posters (proof that this stuff really is the Internet). Add ski to dot-club and you’d need to pay the owner of the dot-club domain, which is Startup.club.
If that sounds potentially confusing, then you are catching on quickly to the wider world of Internet domains.
Until consumers start to learn the multitude of dot-whats, they may have trouble finding the destinations they’re after.
And consider what happens to customers who visit a familiar website and are immediately redirected to one with a different domain name. It will be easy to feel hijacked.
“There are going to be a lot of confused consumers out there,” said Bill Ye, technical director in the Kansas City offices of Global Prairie, a marketing firm. “If you jar your customers, you may lose some trust.”
Still, companies are buying up Internet addresses with new domains.
Lead Bank was interested in lead.bank partly because it doesn’t have leadbank.com. And vice chairman Josh Rowland said that destination’s owner was asking for too much to sell it.
So, when the window to claim lead.bank as a website opened June 1, the so-named community bank grabbed it and some others, such as leadbank.bank.
“We were fast,” Rowland said. “We secured a number of different names.”
Rowland had lots of company in the early rush.
During the first 10 minutes that dot-bank names became available, 3,000 applications came in, according to the Financial Services Roundtable that is part of an industry group that controls the dot-bank domain. By the end of the first week, about 2,100 banks had applied for more than 5,000 dot-bank sites.
Banks find the dot-bank domain appealing in part because that banking industry consortium that controls who gets in is keeping a tight rein on names.
“You have to be vetted as a financial service or bank,” said Eric Steinhouse, corporate marketing director at Commerce Bank. “It’s pretty rigorous in terms of making sure you’re actually a bank as opposed to somebody who might be phishing.”
Commerce grabbed commerce.bank a couple of weeks ago, though customers won’t be landing at that website anytime soon. Customers are used to commercebank.com and the company has invested “a lot of equity” in that site name, Steinhouse said.
Still, the bank wanted to protect its interests.
“Any other Commerce Bank could have gotten that,” Steinhouse said.
Commerce also grabbed commercebank.bank, cbsh.bank and a few dozen others. The list includes websites in other new domains such as commerce.mortgage and commerce.loans.
UMB Bank “secured” umb.bank, according to Terry Kincheloe, senior vice president of interactive marketing. The Kansas City-based company is assessing a potential switch from UMB.com in a way that would “preserve our customer experience and allows prospects to continue to find us easily,” Kincheloe said.
Most companies are moving slowly toward the new Internet domains. Lead Bank, however, is only a few weeks away from redirecting its current web traffic to its dot-bank address.
Rowland said he’s got a marketing plan for helping customers get through the switch. And there’s always old-fashioned personal contact.
“We’re a small enough bank that when people have questions, they call us,” Rowland said.
Few other new Internet domains carry the tightly controlled access of dot-bank. They’re seen more as money makers.
For example, Donuts Inc., a company based in Bellevue, Wash., controls 175 new Internet domains and expects to end up with about 200, said Mason Cole, its vice president of communications. It makes money each time someone buys a website address in any of its domains.
Getting there has been an expensive trip. Donuts filed 307 applications with ICANN for domain names, paying $185,000 each time. That’s just short of $56.8 million. If no one else applied for a domain, then Donuts owned it.
An auction settles ownership if two or more applicants want the same domain, and Cole confirmed that Donuts had to bid to win some of its names.
Back in 2013, Donuts co-founder Daniel Schindler worried publicly about how well these new dot names would sell.
“Our biggest fear would be that there’s not take-up, but I think that’s unlikely,” Schindler said in a video posted at the ICANN website. “I hope it’s unlikely.”
Donuts’ more widely used domains include dot-guru, dot-email, dot-photography and dot-today, each of which has more than 45,000 sites registered, according to the company’s website.
Cole offered some organization to help understand the myriad of new domains. Some are generic, like dot-pizza, and have an obvious appeal to an industry. Some are brands such as dot-barclays, which is controlled by the big British banking company by that name. Some are geographic, with Cole adding that New York City controls dot-nyc.
“There is no dot-kansascity,” Cole said. “Nobody applied.”