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New Web Domain Names: Should You Pass?

Plenty of organizations remain in the dark about the flood of new Internet addresses about to become available later this year. Here's what you need to know.
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
Windows 8: 8 Big Benefits For SMBs
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The clearinghouse mechanism, though, requires SMBs to be aware of the changes in the first place -- and that's far from a given. Take Hobart Swan, head of the PR agency Vocalize PR. "I hadn't a clue" of the new domain names, Swan said in an email to InformationWeek. "This should be interesting as it is hard enough to get people to your site without worrying about whether they've entered a) the correct spelling of your domain name, b) the correct extension and c) the correct spelling of the correct extension."

As a result, Swan said he's unlikely to buy, say, vocalizepr.agency -- one of the applied-for strings -- because of the potential for confusion among clients.

Some SMBs are aware of the new domain names; they simply aren't going to buy them. "The way we see it, all these new domain names will simply be money sinks," said Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of GovernmentAuctions.org, in an email to InformationWeek. "Not only will everything be much more confusing for domain owners, but also online visitors who will have to remember whether sites end in .com, .org, .net, .info, .accountant, .movies, .lawyer, .doctor, .diapers or something else."

[ Thinking about buying some new hardware? Read Microsoft Surface Pro: Why 2 SMBs Say Yes. ]

Therein lies a potential silver lining for SMBs who ignore the new domains. Their customers might ignore them, too.

"Our research shows a majority of consumers are unaware that these changes are coming," a recent report by registry and DNS provider Afilias noted. "And once users hear about them, they would likely avoid the new extensions due to their unfamiliarity."

Just 22% of U.S. adults had heard of the new domains, according to the report, and 58% said they wouldn't visit a website with an extension they didn't recognize. In other words: the large enterprises and domain-name vendors that shelled out $185,000 a pop to apply for new extensions still have a lot of work ahead of them to get people to actually type those URLs into their Web browsers.

"Old habits die hard. [Our] research shows consumer are currently reluctant to experiment with new TLDs," the Afilias report reads. (Afilias should know: the company launched with the .info domain registry in 2001.) "Confidence in 'heritage' domains has been built over many years and dot brands have tough shoes to fill."