December 1, 2015 — Industry-specific domain extensions are coming to the automotive industry next week and could create a digital land grab reminiscent of the Oklahoma land rush in 1889.
Cars Registry Ltd, a joint venture between XYZ and Uniregistry, which owns and operates the new extensions, is making the domains, .cars, .car and .auto available for purchase over three phases beginning on December 9, 2015 at 11:00 am (ET). The domains are a new alternative to the .com, .net and .org extensions that have dominated the Internet since its beginning.
For dealers, manufacturers or vendors not happy with their current URL or who want to create industry-specific — or even region-specific — URLs, the new domains represent an intriguing opportunity. Imagine having .cars, .car or .auto at the end of your URL. Furthermore, automotive firms may want to use the new domains to create business-specific microsites for service or finance and insurance.
Automotive is not the first industry to engage with specific domains. The segmentation of top-level domains (also known as TLDs in the search engine optimization world) began to take off earlier this year.
Even Google chose .xyz as the TLD for its newly launched holding company Alphabet giving it the URL abc.xyz — a key point for those concerned that moving to a new TLD could negatively affect SEO rankings. Already, there are nearly 500 new extensions that are now live and some are beginning to outrank URLs with the .com extension. More than ten million new domains in these new extensions have been registered in the last couple of years — more than 1.5 million of them supplied by XYZ.
The first phase — the “sunrise” period, begins December 9, and lasts for 30 days. During this period, the new domains will be available only to brands that are registered in The Trademark ClearingHouse.
The suggested price point during the sunrise phase is $3,000. Approximately 150 domain registrar companies (think GoDaddy or Markmonitor) will be able to sell the new domains — and are able to set the final price.
Limiting the domains only to companies with registered trademarks along with the $3,000 price tag should significantly reduce the “domain squatting” and speculation that occurred in the early days of the Internet. Meanwhile, it creates a level playing field for companies wanting to improve their URL branding.
One retailer, NetworkSolutions, is already offering pre-registrations of .cars, .car, and .auto domain names at NetworkSolutions.cars
At least three companies, which were part of an earlier testing period, have already switched their domains. Dealership STL Motors switched to stl.cars; Kain Automotive changed to kain.auto and boutique super car car manufacturer changed to lucra.cars. All were previously .com extensions.
The second — or “Early Access” phase begins on January 12, 2016. During this phase any of the most highly desirable domains will be available to register. Examples might include LA.cars, Used.cars, Luxury.cars. The prices in this phase will start at $50,000 and then will decline over the course of ten days throughout the period. This phase is ideal for companies wanting to create geographic-specific URLs with the new domains; dealer or tier two ad associations; or companies wanting to extend their brand by branding trademark variations or marketing slogans.
This phase is where it could become sort of a digital “Oklahoma land rush” scenario and might be the best opportunity for companies looking to gain control over a geographic region using creative branding.
The third phase begins January 20, 2016 and will be ongoing. The TLDs will be available to the general public for an annual $3,000 fee — remember, trying to keep the squatters out.
Meanwhile, Cars Registry’s parent company, XYZ, received good news in late October when a judge in Virginia’s Eastern Court dismissed a lawsuit that had been filed by competitor Verisign claiming false advertising. The case, which had been ongoing for 10 months was scheduled for jury trial November 2. A second lawsuit was dismissed two weeks ago.
Verisign, which is the exclusive retailer of .com domains, controls more than 120 million domains compared with XYZ’s 1.5 million. According to the first lawsuit, Verisign only approves about three million of the eight billion monthly registration requests it receives for .com domain names.
The dismissal removes what may have been a key obstacle for XYZ, which has become the leading player in the new TLD world.