Selling registrations under second level domains that match new TLD strings will increase confusion as new TLDs launch.
Earlier this month CentralNic went public, largely on the promise that new top level domain names can generate significant revenue for the registry services provider.
Yet it’s CentralNic’s current business model – which it continues to extend – that could cause a lot of confusion when new top level domains arrive.
CentralNic uses a lot of second level domains that match top level domains, such as US.com and DE.com, and offers third level domain names below these.
For example, you can register myname.us.com through CentralNic, while myname.us may already be taken.
CentralNic is also now offering third level domains under a second level string that will soon be a top level domain in the case of Africa.com.
If history is any guide, a lot of people navigating to something other than a .com or dominant ccTLD will end up typing .com at the end of the web address.
For example, if they see or hear example.web, they’ll type in either example.com, example.web.com, or exampleweb.com.
You can argue that this behavior will change, but I don’t think it will happen overnight. (It may not be limited to .com, either. The .kiwi applicant was upset when New Zealand’s .nz started offering third level domains under .kiwi.nz.)
That’s why people who own a .com that matches an applied for new TLD string are so delighted. It will result in a lot of traffic to their second level .com domain.
There are a number of ways .com owners can take advantage of this. One is to forward all error traffic to their home page. In the case of a niche domain this could be highly targeted traffic. They can also wildcard subdomains to parked pages.
The thing the .com owner could do that would cause the most damage to a new TLD operator is sell subdomains like name.africa.com. Not only will these subdomains attract traffic, upsetting (future) domain registrants and confusing internet users, but they will also cause confusion in the domain registration path if people are offered both name.africa.com or name.africa as options.
I suspect a lot of people that register name.africa.com instead of name.africa will do so on accident.
I don’t blame the .com owner for taking advantage of this. And I suppose all is fair in love and war: I doubt CentralNic would do this if it caused problems for any of its own TLD applicants.
But it’s bound to cause quite a bit of confusion for domain registrants and internet users alike.