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Here comes the greatest Internet landgrab in history

ICANN tomorrow will reveal who is going after what new domain extensions, paving the way for a very different looking Web. Prepare for dot-madness.

Frank Schilling is betting big on new domain extensions.

(Credit: Frank Schilling)

Frank Schilling made his fortune in the aftermath of the dot-com bust, buying up thousands of domain names others didn't want. He kept at it, aggressively building a portfolio of more than 320,000 domains that, through a combination of ads and outright sales, have made Schilling a decamillionaire many times over.

Now the 43-year-old domainer is going after what he sees as a far bigger opportunity. He's put up $60 million of his own money to stake his claim on a giant, emerging piece of the Internet -- the opening up of so-called generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, to include pretty much anything. The king of all domain extensions -- .com -- is under attack as never before.

"This is absolutely the future," says Schilling, whose new venture,, has applied to run 54 new top-level-domains. "We're at this point where the dot-com name space -- the entire name space -- is exhausted."

It's a massive, six-year-long undertaking that has the potential to radically reshape the landscape of the Internet. By the end of the year, we could begin to see companies branding things very differently. Canon has said it plans to ditch in favor of using .Canon. Google could use Movies.YouTube. And you, dear frustrated domain-buying consumer, could eventually find it a whole lot easier to register a domain name you want without having to pay fat prices that Schilling and his ilk demand on the aftermarket.

It's not just the hard-core denizens of the domain world that are going after new TLDs, which are also known as "strings." Others are jumping into the fray. The most intriguing is Google, which in late May revealed that it's applying for an undisclosed number of strings, including .Google, .YouTube, .docs, and .lol. ("Despite the great opportunities the Web has enabled for people around the world, there is still a lingering question about the diversity of the domain space," Google's chief Internet evangelist, Vint Cerf, wrote in a blog post).

Demand Media, whose business includes Go Daddy competitor eNom, has said it's spending $18 million to go after 26 strings. And a number of lesser-known companies are competing -- some of which, like Schilling's new business, have sprung up specifically to participate in this digital landgrab.

"We've made more than $100 million in bets," says Dan Schindler, a co-founder of, which raised venture capital money to go after 307 strings that it won't reveal before tomorrow. (Notice that the new company's name sits on a .co and not a .com. Why? Because is a parked site owned by a domainer who wanted far more than Shlinder and his team would pay).

Avoiding land mines
All told, these companies have applied for 1,900 strings. Yet even after tomorrow's big reveal, as it's known, a whole lot of messy work awaits. Brands such as Google will simply get their TLDs because of their trademarks. Other claimed brand names will surely lead to disputes, Even countries can protest names.

"It's going to be a minefield fraught with delays," predicts Schindler.

Then there's the overlap problem. Here's an example: Both Schilling and Google want .lol, as might others. Schilling also wants .home, which happens to be on Go Daddy's shopping list as well. And that's just two. Collisions will doubtless occur on many of the best generic names: .music, .free, .cars, .game, and on and on to dot who-knows-what.

Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman is skeptical of all the new domain extensions.

(Credit: James Martin)

This is hardly surprising. Choosing strings, like speculating on domain names, includes a bit of instinct, but it's far from random., for instance, used proprietary software to help it come up with its list, examining 25 parameters that include popular search phrases on Google as well as keyword bidding trends.

All this will lead to months of backroom negotiations. ICANN is asking those involved to try to work out deals. Only when that fails will ICANN hold an auction for the names. Presumably, the big shots like Google will get what they want, but not necessarily. The smaller firms could, for instance, try to team up with a competitor or bring on more investors.

"We may have to fold on some of these," says Schilling, "but we'll try to take them all to auction."

Even after this all shakes out, with much of it stretching into 2013, these new registries will have a ton of work and deal-making to do. Think about it. Of the 22 gTLDs already out there, most are shadows of the giant that is .com, which now claims more than 100 million domain names. Who do you know who uses .pro or .museum?

"We've been living in a .com world since the dawn of the Internet," says Warren Adelman, the CEO of Go Daddy, which in addition to .home, also applied for .casa and .GoDaddy. "Whenever you're doing something other than .com, it's kind of swimming upstream."

Struggle for shelf space
Which is why all these new players will want Adelman's help making that arduous swim. Go Daddy, after all, sells more than half of the domain name registrations in the world. So while these new registries will be technically allowed to sell names directly to consumers, acting also as the registrar, they're going to need partnerships and marketing help to get any attention.

"There's going to be a struggle for shelf space," says Schindler.

Just look at the fastest-growing new TLD on the scene, .co. Entrepreneur Juan Diego Calle worked tirelessly to land a contract with the government of Colombia to commercialize the country's TLD -- beating out Verisign for the contract -- and then proceeded to spend millions marketing the extension.

He's advertising heavily across the Web, has sponsored many events, and struck a partnership with Go Daddy. The two even advertised together in the last two Super Bowls. The result is that .CO Internet, which launched to the public in July 2010, now claims 1.3 million registrations and is a profitable company.

"Many of the companies involved in this are simply hoping that Go Daddy will add their TLD into its store and they'll sell millions the next day," said Calle, who is going after 13 new TLDs through the investment company that backed .co Internet. " That's what they are betting on, but it won't be the case."

The other bet is that big, known brands will do the marketing for all these new domain extensions, creating consumer awareness via ads on TV, outdoor billboards, and elsewhere. If enough companies start promoting their companies on their own extensions -- imagine Drive.BMW or Run.Nike -- the hope is that will shift attention to a world other than .com. Then, when a restaurant needs a Web site, for example, it won't need, but instead will go for WeHaveGreatFood.Restaurant.

To Schilling, who's based in the Cayman Islands, this all resembles the mid-1990s, when big companies started promoting their brands on .com names, seeding the idea that .com was the premium name for all businesses and, ultimately, individuals.

Perhaps. But such a shift will likely take years, or even decades. Along the way, many new domain extensions will likely fail, unforeseen problems will arise, and speculators will find ways to make money off those TLDs that gain traction. Unlike when Schilling started out, however, one thing is very different: No one is dismissing the Internet as over.

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Join the conversation! Add your comment
Cool Business!
Posted by saadusman16 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And Americans wonder why the rest of the world doesn't want the US running the internet. Turning the domain namespace into a commodities market, oh what a great idea. That will help keep the internet open and accessable.
Funny that no one can see the problem with the internet being a money making enterprise for Americans at this point.
Posted by Kimsh (603 comments )
Link Flag
I'd love to have my .tetoro domain
Posted by Tetoro (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
pony up $150,000 and it can be all yours
Posted by SumDuud (968 comments )
Link Flag
I see this as very confusing for both the average user and some businesses. Having the same domain name, but with a different extension will encourage cyber-squatting and redirecting schemes. Will look forward to see how it pans out.
Posted by SeSorrow (39 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's the whole idea.
Posted by bwake2012 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Prepare for the bubble to burst (again)
Posted by n3td3v (3185 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i dont see how that comment makes sense?
Posted by robstak (230 comments )
Link Flag
There is this thing was the internet and when it was fresh everybody wanted a piece of it. Many companies invested everything they had in it, others were built entirely around it, all to have some presence on the internet. Then something that is commonly called the dot com era came to a crashing halt and many of those companies lost everything and closed up shop. They refer to that part of the era as the bubble bursting. That is what the comment refers to and why it makes sense. Hope that helps.
Posted by SumDuud (968 comments )
Link Flag
How it will play out is very simple. A few people (the same people as usual) will make a lot of money. Users will be inconvenienced and confused.

Let's see, if I want to access the White House's official website, is it still going to be Or is it now whitehouse.whitehouse? Or gov.whitehouse? Or just Or any of a thousand other possibilities? It'll all turn into a huge guessing game, with spoof sites, malware sites, and a universe of ad sites to penalize wrong guesses.

Instead of confronting it all, users will try to shut out the complexity by further retreating into walled gardens such as Facebook... oh, wait, maybe THAT's the hidden agenda...
Posted by aj37viggen (116 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I would bet it would stay and that porn sites would occupy the other combinations you proposed, among others.
Posted by CPanoplyd (7 comments )
Link Flag
Just don't buy into the "progressive", control freak, Nanny Statists' siren call of order if only we let them make our decisions for us:

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
-- Thomas Jefferson
Posted by jaguar717 (1687 comments )
Link Flag
Great article. Actually eye opening! Thanks.
Posted by ComLink (84 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Very valuable and the wave of the future, so say the people spending tons of money to purchase them. Hmmmmmm. I myself am usually more concerned with the content on a web site than with the spelling of the URL. When was the last time you typed in a URL?
Posted by lamorpa (460 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I type in URLs because I work with webhosting, but you are right most people I know do not type in URLs. I'll tell you though, I've worked with people who have around 30 slight variations of their domain name parked, not even a redirect.
Posted by Sweetrobbo (18 comments )
Link Flag
I prefer to type in the URL, once I know it. Then I may add a bookmark.

It's too easy to follow links from search results to phishing sites.
Posted by bwake2012 (3 comments )
Link Flag
I type in URLs often. Don't know why, but I do. It seems really fast.
Posted by kpmsprtd (482 comments )
Link Flag
I've always hated .com, it's non-descriptive and from the minds of the 80's to discern it from a government or school and call it commercial. Turns out almost everything is commercial and we needed this overhaul sooner than ipv6.

Hopefully now I can lookup a company and know a little more of them than a non-descriptive 'about' page
Posted by Jazzism12 (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Totally agree. Why should it be more normal that TLDs represent countries instead of communities? These TLDs will represent groups and make much more sense
Posted by europeandomaincentre (5 comments )
Link Flag
I believe .com originally was an extension of executable file, common in Unix, less common in DOS. Idea that .com stands for commercial came later. Any extension (domain name) is kind of meaningless, I just cannot imagine that same name in different domains could belong to different websites.
Posted by SergeM256 (1693 comments )
Link Flag
There's something obnoxiously grating in hearing a domain-squatter like Frank Schilling comment how .com is all used up.
Posted by Murdo99 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"We're spending $60m dollars to ensure that 100% of future desirable domain names will also be owned by squatters."

Essentially. That'll be $50k for that domain please.
Posted by y-ozu (1 comment )
Link Flag
.government .history .hospital .realestate .food .television .person .home

I'm sure some generic TLDs are going to be implemented and the frenzy will begin to grab scores of domains in different TLDs.

Let the lawsuits and user confusion begin!
Posted by kiddkasper (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't agree with your last comment that it will take years to get used to it. Yes, it took time to get used to .com domains, however it was a generation which was used to send faxes and write letters. The digital natives will grasp this change in the landscape very quickly, and embrace the TLDs which make sense. as pointed out it surely helps that big brands will promote their own TLDs
Posted by europeandomaincentre (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Technical people will adapt rather quickly. However, the rest will struggle because the average Internet users have recently gotten accustomed to putting .com (or whatever) onto domains (and some still haven't). Now, they're going to have to get use to NOT putting .com on the domain.

Yes, that will take years.
Posted by kiddkasper (2 comments )
Link Flag
People will adapt quickly when realize that new domain names are meaningless. More like traditional .com system without .com, instead of it will be news.cnet. With 2,000 new top-level domains nobody would know or care if .cnet is domain name or part of the website name.
Posted by SergeM256 (1693 comments )
Link Flag
.com is best. The rest are for latecomers
Posted by iry7l7iulyf (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
League of Legends might take it personally if Google or anyone else grabs LoL as their domain. I wonder how WoW will do, or WoT
Posted by berenerd (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just use sub domains lol
Posted by inachu1 (1312 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually the REAL cost of hosting a new TLD is far beyond the entry fee that is here. There is a whole infrastructure that needs to be setup way beyond just a simple BIND server to host it. This goes far beyond a simple domain registration - even for the private company wanting their .CANON or similar name. Game on!
Posted by jerrymia (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Personally I think this is a push (by CNET and Uniregistry) to begin the buzz. I see where the market is and I have to agree with alot of the comments about "as usual the big ones make lots of $$$$" and or getting "used to .google, .wot" but as usual everything is a vicious cycle (nothing is new under the sun)and I think it will do good and create a whole new landownership on the internet.
Posted by TEK_BAR_NYC (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Isn't this why we have search systems? This is so unnecessary. I should be able to just type in a name into Google or Bing and have it bring back that result.

.com is out of space? Sure is. Thank you, domain squatters, for hoarding up every domain name and placing needless ads on it, praying to the non-technical oriented people. You know, the types looking for Dick's Sporting Goods and regret what they typed in.
Posted by skycorgan (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Looking forward to uncomfortable vs. moments...
Posted by inouyde (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I use google or bing, not TLD names to find what I want...
Posted by zextron (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
who piece of trash piece next please LOL.............
Posted by UsagiJapan (830 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The only people that REALLY benefit from this madness are the search engines :) Honestly... how often do you try to guess a domain name rather than just using google?
Posted by elnator (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They should only be allowed to buy and register company names.
Such as .canon, .google, .apple, .microsoft
and not .people, .restaurant, .hotel

I think it would be more secure if only registered companies could buy these domains.
Posted by bogascorp (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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