ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers just approved extending top-level domain names. Currently, there are 22 general top-level domains and, with this historical vote, that number will now increase to as many as our imaginations can create.
What this means is that for the first time ever you can have a website address that ends in any word you like instead of .com, .net, .org, etc. That is, as long as you can pay approximately $185,000 initially and then $75,000 annually for the privilege.
For the corporations and individuals able to leap this hurdle it sounds like a great idea. Ford can buy (dot) .ford or .car or .truck (if they're faster than Toyota in filing for the domain registrations). In theory, the availability of these new URL endings means that you'll type in 'Ford.car' instead of 'Ford.com'... or will you?
It will take a lot of retraining to get Americans to type in anything besides dot com in a web browser when they want to visit a website. Cognitive bias already has us trained to go to '.com' first, '.net' second and '.org' or '.edu' third -- with other domain name endings falling short of hitting our cognitive radar.
When is the last time you visited a website (besides bit.ly for URL shortening or Like.fm or blip.fm for music) that did not end in one of those top three domain endings? My guess is that you've maybe visited one site in the last month, but most likely you haven't even visited one -- unless you ended up there unitentionally. In fact, when is the last time you automatically typed in '.net' for a web address (besides Comcast.net -- which still took a long time for people to recognize) first?
For better or worse, any domain ending besides '.com' in relation to '.com' is like any toll-free number besides '800' in relation to '800.' Our brains are now trained to dial 800 for a toll-free call and to enter '.com' after a business name we're looking for online.
The good news is that if you don't have a spare $185,000 lying around to purchase a top-level domain, fear not my friend. Your $7-a-year .com domain will continue to serve your business well. What's more, the Coca Cola Company will still have to own coke.com and coca-cola.com as well as coke.soda or drink.coke.