By Duane J. Higgins, ceo and 

Have We Seen This All Before?
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global Internet overseer, is in the process of introducing over 1000 new domain name extensions onto the global marketplace. The largest ever domain name expansion. Over 1000 new domain name applications were received by ICANN. Some of the new applicants are .art, .book, .buy, .cloud, .credit, .email, .game, .home, .hotel, .law, .money, .news, .pay, .run, .team, .web and on and on.

Like it or not, domain names are a significant part of all of our lives. What will this dramatic domain name expansion mean to all of us? More importantly, what will the expansion mean to the Internet architecture, marketplace and economy? How will the expansion roll out? How will it play out? What will it mean for the future of the Internet?

Or even more interestingly, have we seen this all before?

There is a famous phrase which is a quotation from William Shakespeare that says "The Past is Prologue." The phrase means that history influences and sets the context for the present and future. I wanted to test this premise in comparing the ongoing  launch of upwards of 1000 new domain name extensions with the wild, wild west of the American Frontier.

Many are asking what will become of all of these new domain name extensions? How will the new domain name extensions be utilized? What will the domain extensions be marketed for? How will the newly registered names be valued? What will the names be worth?

I would like to show you a description from of the "Wild West" in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century on Wikipedia:

"Frontier history tells the story of the creation and defense of communities, the use of the land, the development of markets, and the formation of states." They explain, "It is a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America."[1] Through treaties with foreign nations and native tribes, political compromise, military conquest, establishment of law and order, building farms, ranches and towns, marking trails and digging mines, and pulling in great migrations of foreigners, the United States expanded from coast to coast fulfilling the dreams of Manifest destiny.

So how does this wild west comparison hold up in relation to ICANNs current and ongoing release of upwards of 1000 domain name extensions? There is a compelling argument that the best comparison for domain name development and growth is the value of physical land over time. Most property/land values have gradually increased over time in the contiguous United States. That is not a straight line graph and it is not month by month, year by year or decade by decade. There are too many variables to compute into the equation as to how a certain piece of land is valued over time at given points in time. However, I can say that most property/land values have gradually increased over time. Is this what is likely to happen with the new top level domain names?

Using the wild west for comparison to domain names is a terrific guideline in many ways. For example, think of the known land mass and comparative values in the America in the second half of the nineteenth century. The known available property/land was smaller (and valued at pennies on the dollar) compared to the known land mass in America today. What would the frontiersmen of the wild west have said at that time- if you told them you were going to multiply the total land mass available for usage by one hundred? Would they have thought that land would be terrifically valuable or would they have thought that there was too much land and the sheer volume of land would make the land in many cases nearly worthless (not worth the trouble to maintain and pay for)? Jump ahead a few hundred years and what is much of that "worthless" land worth now? What new uses were developed or discovered for much of that land that was seen of little value at one time? How many people would be interested in the property- and how is that figure continuing to multiply. How is the population effecting the value of the now scarce land/space.

The success of each individual gTLD (domain name extension) will of course largely be influenced by many prevailing factors that have the ability to influence their success or failure. Just as with physical land. There is plenty of physical property/land that was once highly valued and is now worthless due to contamination, tapped out resources, flooding, the economy, regulations, mismanagement, wars etc. The same will be with the new gTLDs. Many factors will have impact on the individual gTLDs success or failure including who is managing the property and how it is managed (the individual domain registries in this case). However, as a group or mass of names-starting with upwards of 1000 new gTLDs and potentially thousands and thousands more. The value of many of the gTLDs will increase over time. Some gTLDs will succeed. Some will fail.