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Technology news this week has been dominated by the response to Icann’s (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) decision to make new TLD’s (Top Level Domains) available for purchase rather than the second level domains that have previously been made available.

The new TLD’s require a minimum £118,000 registration fee, but several have received multiple bids including “.sex”, “.home”, and “.music” which will trigger a bidding process, there is also a £16,000 annual fee in order to keep the domain. The most contested domain is “.app”.

Icann has come in for a fair amount of criticism regarding this process, both for the cost of the registration moving the domains out of the hands of smaller entities but also the suggestion that the decision to allow TLD’s to use none English characters will facilitate attempts to spoof internet addresses. This is involves producing fake sites with URL’s that look very similar to popular ones and then either seeding links to them or employing black hat SEO techniques to drive them up search rankings, and then infecting visitors with malware or stealing their financial details. The addition of none English characters that nevertheless look very similar to the standard Latin alphabet can only facilitate this process, and almost 10% of the new TLD applications involved such characters, although there is a complaints process that allows objections to any particular TLD to be raised.

Probably the most important question here is whether these new domains are actually worth as much as might initially be assumed. Previous experience with specific use domains such as the fairly recent launch of “.mobi”, tends to suggest that users are more likely to look for sites with more traditional suffixes such as “.com” rather than looking for an unusual TLD.

Even in cases where sheer name recognition see’s the new TLD’s being actively recognised by users such as “.apple” or “.bbc” it’s very much debatable whether they will actually be adding much value, as the user experience will be identical to a site hosted on “.com”. There may be some value for financial institutions or online traders as the unique domain adds another layer of perceived security but even this is questionable.

Certainly the likelihood of other websites paying a substantial premium to sublet second level domains from these new offerings seems dubious, although in some cases such as with .app, .music, or .sex it might happen more as a result of lack of understanding of their value or desire for prestige, than sound reasoning.

Google has been clear in stating that the new TLD’s will not impart any SEO advantage, further increasing the debate over their value.

So what do you think? Are these new domains a sound investment or a flash in the .pan? Please let us know in the comments section.