One of the innovations in the Internet space is the expansion of top level domains (“TLDs”), the suffixes to the right of the dot.
These TLDs now include descriptive words such as .guru, .gifts, .photo, etc., as well as names of major cities in the world. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, more familiarly known by its acronym ICANN, began approving the new TLDs in 2013, and they are currently becoming available to the general public.
A full domain name consists of several parts, although most important are the words or phrases to the left of the dot, known as the second level domain, because they are the monikers or brand names that distinguish one business from another.
The Popularity of a .NYC Domain
The major cities of the world are (or will be) represented, but .NYC, which became generally available on October 8, 2014, is by far the most successful to date. .NYC is not available to everyone, but only to persons and businesses located in New York City. Registration for .NYC requires proof of the registrant’s business or residence in New York City This differentiates .NYC from other geographic TLDs generally and .LONDON in particular, which is open to any registrant. By way of numbers, as of November 12, 2014 the comparative registrations are as follows:
New York City
Choosing the Right Domain Name
While the new TLDs and particularly geographic suffixes offer a unique opportunity that I will explain further below, they are governed by the same constraints as the old TLDs, namely that:
businesses should avoid choosing domain names identical or confusingly similar to trademarks; and
domain names are not literally owned by the registrant, but held for a limited period with the right to renew and if not renewed can be irretrievably lost even if the second level domain spells out a weak trademark.
It is now universally understood that to compete effectively businesses and individuals offering goods or services must be in the cyber market. The purpose for having easily memorable domain names, of course, is consumer recognition. The extraordinary expansion of TLDs means that the Internet will be populated by identical or confusingly similar second level domains. The larger the market the greater the likelihood businesses will be overlooked. The advantage of local TLDs is they will be competing with a smaller number of domain names in their market.
New York City Market Visibility
Why register a .NYC if you already have a domain name in the .com, .org or .net space? Why not, for example, <memorablewordorphrasenyc.com> rather than <memorablewordor phrase.nyc>. There is no doubt that businesses derive benefits from their locality.
Benefits to Local Domains
One answer for registering a .NYC (or other city TLD)—the most compelling, I think—is that it is an opportunity to register non-infringing words and phrases not protected by trademark but already taken in the old TLDs.
Another answer is that geographic suffixes make the cyber marketplace local. Of course, search engines if not instructed otherwise will also bring merchants and individuals in every other suffix who are not actually located in New York City, but if the searches are narrowed to New York City or London or Melbourne local businesses will be at an advantage.
A third answer is that there is cache in having a local moniker; it is a way of leveraging one’s brand business in the local market.
When potential customers search for businesses to meet their needs they may include their location to narrow the results. In a .NYC directory businesses are likely to rank higher than they would in a global search. If a customer searches for a business within New York City, a .NYC domain can help increase a business’ online visibility.
This post is part of Priori’s blog series “From Our Attorneys,” where we feature lawyers in our network discussing important issues small businesses face. In today’s post, transactional attorney Gerald Levine explains the importance of small businesses using cities in their domains in order to narrow down search results for customers find local businesses
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