Will New Generic Top-level Domains Kill Off Social Networks?

The internet will soon undergo one of the biggest changes it has ever seen with the launch of new generic top-level domains. This will see traditional extensions such as .com joined by more specialized names like .business.

One of the impacts of the move will be to allow brands to host their websites on “vanity” extensions. For example, BMW could move from BMW.com to BMW.BMW and could also host any other pages it wanted to on its new extension.

One expert believes that this move could have a big impact on social networks.

Frank Schilling, a long-term veteran of the domain scene, believes that the new GTLDs will be used by big firms to create their own networks, so instead of paying Facebook and Twitter to promote pages on those sites, brands would pay to promote their own networks.

If this came to pass, there would be a significant drop in advertising revenue for social networks, something that could threaten their very future.

So could this actually happen? Let’s look at the possibilities.

For: Keeping traffic in households great appeal

If you’re relying on another platform to generate traffic for you, then you’re not fully in control of things. If that platform makes changes, you could see a drop in visitors and that could mean a drop in revenues. Big brands will be keen to avoid this situation.

Against: New gTLDs might not succeed

Although a lot of effort has been put into the launch of new gTLDs, there is no guarantee they will take off. The total failure of all the new extensions seems highlight unlikely, but the possibility for things going wrong may lead to brands taking a more cautious approach.

For: No one will want to be left behind

The very possibility that a branded social network on a new gTLD might be the next big thing will encourage many companies to get involved as soon as possible. If things work out the way Schilling has predicted, firms that don’t get in on the ground floor may discover they lag behind their rivals for quite a while.

Against: This kind of technology exists now

Although the introduction of new gTLDs will add an extra level of branding to any company-centric social network, the fact is the technology required to set one up would work equally as well on a .com domain.

That relatively few firms have built such a network shows that there isn’t much of an appetite for doing so, despite the obvious benefits. Will the switch to new gTLDs really be enough to change hearts and minds?

Against: Existing social networks allow “soft” marketing

No one likes a sales pitch and one of the reasons Facebook and Twitter have become so successful is because they allow people to connect with like-minded individuals without a constant hard sell.

The upshot for brands is that they can interact with potential customers in ways that extend beyond direct advertising. A branded network removes this pre-existing audience and also adds the challenge of getting people to sign up for something which will allow a company to market to them directly.

For: Big changes are hard to predict

Although it looks like these kinds of networks would face an uphill struggle to get off the ground, that’s true of pretty much every major internet endeavour. Right now, it’s hard to envisage a situation where big brands abandon Facebook and Twitter, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Let us know what impact you think new gTLDs will have on social networks in the comment section.

Article by Will Stevens of domain name registrar 123-reg.co.uk. Will writes about a range of topics including new gTLDs, social media and SEO.

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