The problem with last week's decision by the organisation that manages the Internet domain name system to add seven new top level domains (TLDs) is that no one really knows whether it's a gift or a curse.
Will the addition of domains such as .biz and .museum make it easier for users to navigate the Internet, or will that become more confusing? And for businesses, will the expanded number of TLDs give them a better chance at getting desirable URLs or complicate the process of protecting their corporate trademarks? The answers are far from clear, according to analysts and corporate IT managers.
"This is not created to make an average company's life easier - absolutely not," said Audrey Apfel, an analyst at Gartner Group. "I think it makes life worse." Obtaining URLs under the new domains will be an expensive proposition: Gartner estimates companies will spend an average of about $70,000 to maintain a domain-name strategy that would include registering variants of the names they want to protect.
And whether companies will even use the domain names they buy is unclear. In the commercial space, Meta Group analyst David Scott Lewis said the argument between the established .com domain and the upstart .biz TLD "is kind of a moot point - .com is it."
In last week's decision, the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) also approved the addition of .info, .name, .pro, .aero and .coop domains. ICANN still needs to complete negotiations with the companies and organisations that are looking to manage registries for the new TLDs, and the domains aren't expected to come online until the middle of next year.
Richard Villars, an analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC), said the new domains may improve the process that users have to go through to find information on the Internet, as long as the new domains don't become corrupted with improper registrations. "Shortcuts like this . . . will make life easier over time," he said.
But David Curle, a director and lead analyst at Outsell, said he wonders how end users will know whether to type in .com, .biz or some other URL suffix to find the Web sites they're looking for. "The result is going to be a very haphazard collection of domains that is really going to create more confusion than anything else," Curle said.