If David Letterman Were a Digital Geek

Recently, I wrote a blog post (“Dot What?”) and was interviewed in PRWeek about ICANN’s new scheme for radically transforming generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to go beyond the current dot-com approach to a more free-form structure that will enable people to create Web addresses in almost any name and language, up to 63 characters long. Under the new regime, one could use an existing suffix, like .com, or create a unique alternative (imagine, for example, if Starbucks were to register .coffee), or even conjure up a new website with no suffix at all.

The more I think about it, the more firmly I believe this is a dumb idea. With that in mind, and with a nod to David Letterman, here are my top 10 reasons why ICANN’s new scheme will fail – and fast.

10. D.O.A.: With hotlinks, link shorteners, QR codes and app buttons that direct users straight to Web content, I’m not sure how relevant any domain names will be anymore, not even the venerable .com.

9. Search=Start: No one types Web addresses into their browsers anymore, now that search is the new start. Google has morphed from a means of discovery to a tool for navigation to content people already know they want. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the writing on the wall.

8. Hard to Beat .com: Why force users to type .cocacola or even .soda when three simple letters — .com – will do. That little acronym has become so ubiquitous, it’s even earned its place as a dedicated button on many computer and mobile keyboards.

7. Chaos and Confusion: If we strip away the standard name.com structure, “www” might as well stand for “Wild West Web,” with zero predictability. It will take a lot of retraining to get Internet users to type anything besides .com (if they type a URL at all!).

6. At Best, It’s a Hedge: The Coca-Cola Company will still have to own coke.com and coca-cola.com as well as coke.soda or drink.coke.

5. Vanity: Custom TLDs don’t serve the public’s interest. They serve only to stroke the ego of the domain owners. This is the Web 3.0 version of the vanity plate. Welcome to the vanity domain.

4. Past Is Prologue: Beyond .com, .org, .net, .edu and .gov, ICANN has already blessed us with more than a dozen other TLDs, including .info and .biz. Quick! How many successful websites can you name that end in .pro?

3. Sticker Shock: Applications start at $185K – not exactly the sweet spot for small and mid-sized businesses, to say nothing of regular Joes and Janes.

2. Scams: It will be no time before the guys who write those bogus emails from millionaire descendants of Nigerian kings will expand their franchises. Set your spam filters to high alert for emails linking to “online.banking” or some other such nonsense that’s suitably dressed up to seem legit.

1. If It Ain’t Broke: If ICANN really wants to sell this thing, they have to tell us why and serve up an urgent reason to ditch .com. For any of you who think we’re running out of .com options, come find me. I’ve got a storehouse full of hot .pro models that will fit you like a glove – at prices you’ll love.

That’s my top 10, but trust me, there’s more where these came from.

For now, we need to cut away for a word from our sponsors. But stick around for more great stuff just after the break, including Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra!

Jonathan is a Partner and the Global Director of Ketchum Digital. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughters, and is into the social web, progressive politics, cycling, scuba diving and travel. Connect with him on Twitter — @jonathankopp — or just about any other social network.