Yes, Multiple Top Level Domain Names Add to Confusion

Duh. More TLDs cause confusion. Perhaps it’s outweighed by the innovation?

This morning I read Wired’s article on ICANN, which discusses new top level domain names.

It quotes David Farber saying “I don’t think that [adding new TLDs] creates innovation. I think that creates rapid confusion.”

Antony Van Couvering with new TLD service provider Minds + Machines, responded in the comments:

There’s no evidence whatever that people will be confused by new top-level domains. We already have more than 270 top-level domain today (all the gTLDs and ccTLDs) and no-one seems to be confused. People are smart and adaptable and quickly gravitate toward Internet services that improve their lives…

Really? Look, I agree with a lot of what Antony has to say about new TLDs, but to say that no one seems confused by having more than one top level domain name is just bunk.

Just last week, Michael Berkens received 27,000 web visitors in a single day to his .com from people looking for the .info of the same domain. A number of companies with ccTLDs (the majority of those 270 tlds Antony is referring to) have filed UDRPs or bought the .com version of their ccTLD because many of their customers go to .com instead.

So the argument isn’t whether increasing the number of new TLDs increases confusion or not. Instead, the argument should be that the possible innovation from adding new TLDs outweighs the cost of confusion.

It’s true that new TLDs may lead to innovation. (I assume some of the people Antony refers to in his comment about being “in a bit of a time-warp” would be someone like Tim Berners-Lee.)

Sadly, everything that has been publicly announced about new TLDs isn’t innovative; it’s just attaching a new label to the end of a domain name. It makes sense that someone who has an innovative idea doesn’t want to tell the world about it, but so far when I ask for examples all I hear are cases where someone wants to bundle services with the TLD or something else that can be done today with any other TLD or web site.

If anyone is working on a truly innovative TLD — something that can’t be done with today’s existing structure — I’d love to hear about it off the record.


  1. says

    You cannot add ccTLDs into the mix when discussing the impact of future gTLDs. They have zero in common with each other because ccTLDS are the brand TLDs for their respective countries (and it’s no secret that, historically, nationalism is an extremely easy sell :)

  2. says

    Correct, but that mostly happens when people attempt to assign different definitions like dotTV. My point was that one cannot use the quick acceptance of ccTLDs by their respective countries’ citizens and businesses as any type of barometer for the acceptance of these gTLDs.

  3. says

    two things. with ccTLDs it is not people who “attempt to assign different definitions” but much more often it is the sovereign entities themselves.

    I was one of the original bidders on .tv in ‘98 and have been pitched on dozens of “ccTLD as generic” since. I can assure you it is their idea not users or **businesses** (.la, .fm, etc.)

    second, andrew, the simplest innovation is the corporate TLD ( it has been much discussed and provides material functionality both to companies and to users.

    as someone operating a company with multiple business units in somewhat different businesses I can tell **you** it will be huge boon for a company as small as Tucows. for bigger, more diverse companies the benefits will be even greater.

    small point. I like utility as a measure better than innovation. this is about function, not invention or genius.

    • says

      @ Elliot – how do you suppose users will interact with these corporate TLDs? My thinking is that if I have .ibm, I’m going to need to alias every direct nav URL (e.g. to my existing .com ( or for a long time. Eventually, people will understand that it’s just IBM, but it will take a very long time.

      Although I’ve been generally opposed to new TLDs for a long time, I’m starting to get excited about them. After all, the payday for everyone involved is getting closer…and that means more money in our industry.

  4. says

    Andrew, my impression was that you embraced the new TLD’s; now it is you are cautious.

    The justice department and ICANN responded to my letters, which responses are published with permission on, which is my rant against Verisign’s bulk transfer after partial portfolio acquisition. ICANN’s promotion of new tld’s and cctld’s is a means to distract from the BTAPPA which will put dot coms and dot nets back into the hands of the registrars, to be sold at whatever price they want!

  5. says

    andrew I do think it will take at least a couple years for users to become accustomed to corporate tlds.

    for me the litmus test for tipping point is when you see a mainstream company use it in a major television campaign.

  6. Marg says

    Re: Elliot’s quote “for me the litmus test for tipping point is when you see a mainstream company use it in a major television campaign.”

    Who has seen .mobi ever being used like this, even the length of time it’s been around? Also, most companies using .tv tend to back it up with or

    A further thought; there’s a Canadian TV show called “How it is Made” which uses as their associated website. Watching it the other night, I kept seeing alternating references to as well as the dot net. The dot com is a parked page not owned by them, so even the folks who produce the show are defaulting to dot com unless they are thinking clearly.

  7. Brady R. says

    So some people will be confused in the short term in the specific situation where a company uses television ads to promote a website, which is an extremely inefficient way of driving traffic anyway.

    I also wonder how many of Berkens’ visitors figured out their mistake and made it to the .info site anyway.

  8. question says

    BrandTLDs could weaken .com as it won’t then be undisputed commercial king, if they prove popular. But geoTLDs should strengthen ccTLDs as there won’t be any overlap there.

    Making the namespace 3D seems pretty innovative to me and a surgical strike if their intent is also to shift power from .com/Verisign.

    Btw I think confusion is good, online. We have search and aggregation and don’t have to keep track of things along any one TLD, or keep lists like Yahoo used to do. Just like domains themselves, TLDs will live or die by the depth of their meaning. But dot-com is always welcome due to its legacy.

    Besides, kids could care less about TLDs, they get their stuff through friends, links, referrals, their networks, search, bookmarks etc etc. They don’t walk around the internet like their parents did last century:)

  9. Jeffrey Eckhaus says

    Was there mass confusion when cable operators came into the business and expanded the television universe to hundreds of channels? I think people understood that if there was an NHL channel then there was hockey on that channel.
    Granted the NHL channel may not get the same number of viewers as NBC, but it is a dedicated channel to hockey and users know when they go there they will see hockey.
    I believe the same applies to the TLD universe. People will see new TLDs and they may not have the usage of .com, but will allow users to find the specific content they are looking for.
    Most important, let the users decide if they want these specific channels or not.

    • says

      Jeffrey – “Most important, let the users decide if they want these specific channels or not”

      I’m fine with that. But I think it’s clear that multiple domains create confusion. The cable example doesn’t work for me…that’s like just having another domain name under .com for the NHL channel. Instead, what we’re dealing with is “The NHL Channel is channel 125.” I go to channel 125 on my TV and it’s not there. “Oh, it’s channel 125 on frequency 36”.

  10. says

    @Elliot Noss: how would corporate TLDs really benefit Tucows? Let’s hear some uses and why new gTLDs is the solution.

    @question: confusion is good? That is probably the worst thing possible on the internet. I would argue most of the internet’s problems are due to confusion (spam – confused source, viruses – what is this pictures.jpg.exe? etc). Your final argument hurts your initial, if we navigate differently why do we need new gTLDs? Your examples suggest we really don’t need them at all.

    It’s all just a giant money grab with no innovation/benefit going on. Domains are an identifier, there is nothing innovative going on that couldn’t be done otherwise. Did Twitter need a .twitter for what is being labeled by some as a new protocol (checkout YCombinator RFCs)? Nope.

    I also can’t take Antony’s arguments seriously anymore after this article

    There is most certainly confusion even today about the relatively small number of gTLDs (I agree ccTLDs are a different issue which sometimes overlap on ones like .tv). People cannot even get .com by itself figured out. Look how many typos are or

  11. John A. says

    One of the few new TLD’s that will work is .gay.

    This extension is needed because of the unique nature of that community.

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