ICANN, the governing body for internet web addresses, last year gave the green light to the most significant shake-up to the domain name structure in 25 years. The decision to widen the current system of internet domain names means that from 12 January until 12 April this year, organisations can apply for the domain name suffix of their choice. So as well as .com or .co.uk, we may see web addresses ending in .music or .shop, or brand names such as .Canon or .Deloitte.
This not only presents a huge opportunity for companies, but also for high profile city brands like our very own capital, London. This is why Boris Johnson and London and Partners, the official promotions agency for London, have invited organisations to submit responses by noon tomorrow to the proposal to apply for “dot London”. Brand London is stronger than ever, with all eyes recently upon us for the royal wedding, as they will be again for the much-anticipated London 2012 Olympic Games. That brand can be extended online with dot London.
It is not just about national pride and publicising big events though. With dot London, our city could champion and support the many businesses that lie within its perimeter by giving small businesses based in the city the opportunity to take advantage of being associated with London. Whether it’s blackcab.london or plumbers.london, companies can align themselves to the capital to attract consumers looking for a local service.
For dot London to be successful it will need the support of major well known London institutions and websites to actively use the dot London name – for instance, rebranding visitlondon.com to Visit.London, citypridelondon.co.uk to CityPride.London, or museumoflondon.org.uk to Museum.London. This support, as well as direct awareness raised by the operators of dot London, will ultimately determine whether small businesses will see value in the name.
Dot London has the capacity to provide a revenue stream to the city in the longer term through initial registrations and ongoing annual domain renewal fees through potentially valuable names like hotels.london, concerts.london and fly.london. The city could retain such names and have a licensing model that allows it to increase the prices as the value of dot London as a trusted identifier grows. There are also options to earn revenue from auctioning premium names. The full value of such names, however, can only be realised once dot London becomes well known to consumers.
I have barely scratched the surface here – the potential uses for a dot London web address are truly huge. While there will be costs associated with establishing and marketing a dot London domain – ICANN’s application fee alone is $185,000 (£118,712) – investing in this online opportunity will help lift brand London to new heights and start realising our city’s digital potential.
Stuart Durham is European head of sales at Melbourne IT DBS.