London is latest major city to get its own domain
London joins New York and Berlin today with a local top-level domain, .london, but concerns remain over the expense of new TLDs.
Would you Adam-and-Eve it? Londoners now have their own domain. New local top-level domains have arrived in another major city as people and businesses in the British capital can proudly add ".london" to their Web address. Cor blimey, guvnor!
New local domain names are sprouting up around the world thanks to the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body in charge of the admin of Web addresses. .london follows Germany's .berlin and Austria's .wien, with .nyc, .miami, .vegas, .stockholm and .istanbul soon to come.
Applications at buydomains.london begin today and are open for the next three months, known as the "sunrise" period. The first .london sites have already appeared -- East End football team West Ham and hamper emporium Fortnum and Mason are among the first to secure new cockney domains with whufc.london and fortnumandmason.london.
"Be it a small London café or one of the capital's prominent sports clubs, a .london Web address offers a stronger online connection to the London community surfing the Web," says Jan Corstens, a partner at both Deloitte and ICANN's Trademark Clearinghouse, the body that safeguards trademarks in the new domains.
"This is a good move for major hub cities like London," says Mark Skilton, Professor of Practice at Warwick Business School. "It's critical this digital branding is not missed as Berlin and other cities move to develop their digital presence.
"With some large early-entry cloud brands like Google, Amazon and others already dominating [the Internet], it's important that the next level of digital ecosystems -- which will see the Internet of things pervading into homes, work, connected transport, health, retail and many others -- is balanced with regional and social identity for everyone and not just select providers."
Not everyone is impressed the new wave of TLDs, however. Some critics see the opening up of top-level domains as a money-making scheme for the people in charge of the Internet. Industry expert Graham Charlton of eConsultancy, for example, criticises the approval of new .uk domains because "companies are forced to buy .uk domains when they already have perfectly good .co.uk domains. The only people who see the point of this are Nominet and domain registrars."
In terms of cost, a .london domain name can cost £49.95 ($84, €60), while generic domains such as .book are expected to change hands for substantial sums.
More local TLDs at least add new meaning to a Web address rather than simply repeating an existing form. "I think the .london domains are a different matter," continues Charlton, "as they perform a separate function: allowing businesses to associate themselves more closely with London. Perhaps this will influence Web users' opinions of the company in question, or maybe it will make no difference.
"But as with any new domain, there is the issue of protecting trademarks and guarding against the risk of domain squatters or others taking a brand and registering it as a .london domain."
ICANN has opened up top-level domains to many new words on top of .com, .org and the rest -- all Google websites could end ".google", for example. But this proliferation of potential URLs won't be cheap for anyone with a website, as you now have to think about registering a bunch of suffixes in order to avoid someone else snapping them up and profiting from confused Web surfers looking for your website. In one of the first trademark disputes over new TLDs, for example, Dutch company Canyon Bicycle had to win back "canyon.bike" from opportunist cybersquatters.
Established names looking to get a .london URL for their trademark have to register with a trademark clearing house, which will then give them priority over opportunistic cybersquatters -- but extra expense comes from the fact that in this new Internet landscape buying just one domain may expose you to squatting.
Are local domain names a good idea for the people and businesses around you, or a money-making scheme for the overlords of the Internet? Step in time to the comments to tell me what you think.
Updated at 3pm BST: Included comment from Graham Charlton.