Joseph Peterson asks, “when is new not really new,” and proposes new terminology to clarify it.
Going into the new year, I decided to make a little glossary of domaining definitions. That includes words many people use already, some terms I’ve been tossing around privately for years, and a few I’ve invented on the fly to clarify what (to me) seems vague.
This sounds presumptuous, but I’m not insisting on any of this lingo. This isn’t the “right” terminology. Helpful, at best. If a handful of you find a label handy, terrific!
The first, and the subject of today’s post, is:
nTLD – Short for “new TLD”, this refers to any of the hundreds of new gTLDs whose release began with 2014 and will continue throughout 2015. Although these TLDs are quite diverse and won’t always be new, they do belong to a discernible movement whose aim is to introduce widespread novelty online. Right now, they are discussed as a bundle, distinct from earlier gTLDs; and “nTLD” is one label that has arisen.
So if people are saying “nTLD” already, then why belabor the issue? For starters, there has been so much talk about new gTLDs that a significant percentage of domainers would declare themselves pro-.COM and anti-gTLD – even though .COM itself is a gTLD, along with .NET, .ORG, and most established extensions apart from country codes such as .DE, .ME, .CA, and .IN. Since people have naturally sought a label, we’re better off using “nTLD” rather than see such confusion about the meaning of “gTLD”.
Even in the future, these nTLDs may be recognized as belonging – if not to a category – then to a “generation”, owing to the circumstances of their introduction. ICANN has flooded the market with nTLDs in a way drastically different from the slower pace we saw from .BIZ (2001) through .MOBI (2005) to .XXX (2011). At some point, people might begin to think of meaningful suffixes like .PRO, .TRAVEL, .TV, .FM, .ME, .US, .IT, and .ASIA as being grouped with .CLUB, .GURU, and .PROPERTY even though they preceded the nTLDs by years and include what are technically ccTLDs rather than gTLDs. If they blur the lines, then let them! Nevertheless, the distinction can be made. Not everyone will apply a a label, but we may wish to.
To be as precise as possible, “nTLD” ought to apply to this large set of domain suffixes regardless of timing, whereas the phrase “new TLD” ought to be reserved for recent or forthcoming releases. This may sound pedantic, but it does lead to practical advantages. For example consider this sentence:
The old nTLDs had higher first-week registration numbers than new nTLDs.
How awkward without the word “nTLD”! Should we say “the old new TLDs” or “the new new TLDs”? Wouldn’t “the old TLDs” refer to .COM, .EDU, and .GOV? Communication is much cleaner if “nTLD” has this recognized meaning. Moreover, we can use nTLD as an adjective, which permits us to make logical statements we otherwise can’t. For instance, we can ask:
How does nTLD adoption in the USA compare to nTLD registration and development patterns in Europe?
We’re asking about the past. However, had we attempted to ask this same question without the “nTLD” label, then we’d accidentally find ourselves inquiring about the future:
How does new TLD adoption in the USA compare to new TLD registration and development patterns in Europe?
Substituting the phrases “adoption of new TLDs” and “registration / development of new TLDs” is no solution because “new TLD” remains ambiguous. Are we talking about last week’s 5 new TLDs or about the hundreds of nTLDs rolled out thus far? It does make a difference. Nobody wants convoluted circumlocutions, but we do need to rely on being understood. This word “nTLD” may not be a formal ICANN category, but it’s the simplest means to an end. Today its meaning is quite clear. Years from now, what an “nTLD” is may need to be revised; but we can cross that bridge when we come to it. At the moment, anybody writing about the domain industry may find the word “nTLD” a useful or even irreplaceable tool.