If I see a street sign that says The Close, I'd expect the road to be a cul-de-sac. If it's called The Crescent, I'd expect it to be curved. The Boulevard may well have a central reservation. And the High Street will probably have shops. Not always but often.
It's the same with domain names. A co.uk address suggests a UK business, while co.il is most likely to be based in Israel. There's .gov for government, .edu for education and so on. We've chosen 51Degrees for our business because the suffix indicates a mobile-friendly site.
But the web has just been shaken up. No longer do you need to settle for a suffix chosen by ICANN, the overlords of the internet. (Not even those odd ones like .coop, .museum and .aero). Instead, you can make up your own domain.
For example, we could register ‘degrees' as our own top-level domain, and then use www.51.degrees – with the option of setting up a whole family of .degrees web sites. Something like www.the.three.degrees perhaps, or http://university.degrees, or… well, you get the picture. We could even choose Chinese or Arabic characters.
Cheap it isn't. There's a hefty up-front fee, even if your application isn't accepted – and there'll also be the worry of choosing the right top-level domain (or ‘TLD'). If you're Burger King, do you register .king or .burger? What happens if someone else beats you to .king? Perhaps a cigarette company fancies smo.king? It's one of the reasons there was – and still is – some big-name opposition to these new TLDs.
It's the risk of confusion that particularly bothers me, although the overtly commercial nature of the new TLDs also sits uncomfortably with ICANN's position as a ‘not-for-profit' organisation.
What does it mean to the mobile internet? Very little, particularly with mobile device detection able to function on any TLD. Even www.desktop.computer or http://budget.tablet could be transformed into a mobile-friendly site!
The biggest frustration is likely to be experienced by first-time visitors struggling to type longer domain names with small keypads or unfriendly on-screen keyboards. Well, at least until speech recognition technology like Apple's Siri or Nuance FlexT9 becomes more widely used.
Here at 51Degrees.mobi, we'll be sticking with our dot-mobi domain. It explains where we are and what we're all about… which, after all, is the whole point of a sign.
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