[quote]As these new domains become more ubiquitous, the opportunity is to build verticals that provide clear navigation and establish trust with your customers. [/quote] By James Anstey What are they? Simply put TLDs are new internet domain extensions, a whole slew of .com, .org, .edu equivalents. The acronym stands for Top Level Domains and there is about to be a large expansion of new domains that will significantly change navigation and present large challenges, but also opportunities for marketers. There are currently about 250 million domains in the world, most of which end with .com. Over the next few years, thousands of new domain endings will be released which will significantly expand the number of potential domains in the world. So in addition to the standard .com domain, there will soon be thou- sands of new domain endings including generic terms like .bike, .love; geographical terms like .nyc, .london; and brand terms like .bmw, .loreal, etc. [caption id="attachment_2274" align="alignright" width="150"]James Anstey James Anstey[/caption] Why would someone do this, just as we were all getting used to the current nomenclature? ICANN, the governing body of domains, has decided that there are simply not enough domains and this is stifling innovation, reducing utility and competition. Pressure is building on the current domain structure due to the huge volume of digital data from a growing plethora of digital devices and rapidly expanding internet markets of the emerging economies in Asia. The first new domains are currently being slowly released, and marketers are starting to get wise to their future potential. Opportunities can be broadly divided into offensive and defensive tactics. The defensive tactics are making sure you get your .brand before someone else does, and ensuring coverage for other potential brand extensions. For example, BMW has applied for .BMW and they will probably also buy other potential domains like bmw.car, bmw.now and bmw.guru. Offensive tactics are the brave new world for marketers. The biggest opportunity is to use the new domains to help your customers find what they want more quickly and easily. Small businesses will benefit tremendously, for example Jim Smith the plumber can now be found easily at jimsmith.plumber. Brands that came late to the dotcom party in the 1990s can now register their brands. For example E&J Gallo has applied for .barefoot as it doesn’t own barefoot.com. Masterbrands such as Virgin can clearly define different divisions under one family: mobile.virgin, America.virgin and records.virgin. Fallcollection.gucci helps Gucci customers intuitively identify and shop from a brand domain that is understood to be authentic and free of fakes.  There will undoubtedly be some initial confusion when these new extensions are released into the marketplace. But as these new domains become more ubiquitous, the opportunity is to build verticals that provide clear navigation and establish trust with your customers. For the moment, TLDs remain a complex area surrounded by lots of well-intentioned jargon and acronyms that can confuse marketers and make IP lawyers salivate. As batches of new domains launch in the coming months, marketers need to be watching with interest and evaluating how this large change in domain structure can benefit their ambitions. James Anstey leads Hill + Knowlton's New York Office’s digital practice. TLDs_Anstey_040114