Amazon’s purchase of the .book generic top-level domain has prompted speculation about how the e-tailer plans to use it. Amazon bought the TLD for a reported $10 million last week, allowing it to sell domain names with the .book suffix.
Amazon declined to comment on its plans for the TLD, but Raymond King, CEO of Top Level Design, owner of the generic TLD .ink, said he expects Amazon to offer .book domain names for sale to the public as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) intended, as well as using the TLD for its own business purposes. “Why would they close it off?” King asked, in response to speculation that Amazon might keep the domain name solely for its own use. “You don’t want to limit your TLD. Amazon is known for being a visionary company, and it’s in their interest to make .book available to all authors.”
TLDs include familiar extensions (or suffixes) such as .com, .net, and .org, which are appended to the end of specific domain names (such as amazon.com). ICANN, the nonprofit that governs the Internet naming system, put in place a plan to increase the number of generic TLDs in 2012. The expansion was intended to address the overcrowding of the .com domain, and to improve navigation and spur commercial activity on the Internet. Amazon, Google, R.R. Bowker, are among the more than 1,900 companies that applied for the right to operate a variety of new TLDs.
If a top-level domain is desired by multiple entities, it can be acquired either through a private auction or an ICANN-directed auction (ICANN auctions are winner takes all, with proceeds going to ICANN; private auctions are actually preferred by bidders—the winning bid is divided among the losing bidders, who can then use the money to bid on other TLDs ). Large TLD owners typically work on a wholesale model, offering domain names for sale through resellers (like GoDaddy), although an increasing number of smaller TLD owners (such as King’s company) sell domain names directly to the public.
As an entrepreneur in the domain-name sector with 14 years of experience, King is focused on domains in the creative-media sector. Top Level Design controls three TLDs: .ink, .wiki, and .design. Two of King’s TLD’s were uncontested—he was the only bidder and acquired them for a filing fee of $185,000 each. “The expansion of domain names allows people to get a meaningful name rather than settling for .com, which is filled up,” King said. “Now you can get .plumber, if you’re in that business, or .author—something that says who you are. It’s much better and carries more semantic meaning.”
Amazon’s initial application to bid on the .book generic TLD was opposed by some in the book industry, including the AAP, on the basis that private ownership of .book would be against the public interest. Especially troubling at the time was the initial language in Amazon’s ICANN application, which asserted that “all domains in the .book registry will remain the property of Amazon,” and that “there will be no resellers in .book and there will be no market in .book domains.” That language was subsequently softened. King said both Amazon and Google were criticized for using such “closed language” in their early applications for .book (the latter eventually decided against bidding for the TLD). The AAP has urged that the .book TLD be open to publishers, authors, editors, educators, sellers, photographers, literary agents and bibliophiles—indeed, all of the traditional constituents of the book industry.
Though .com is the prime Internet domain for major businesses, King expects that won’t always be the case. Since the TLD expansion, only three million domain names with new extensions have been sold—compared to about 115 million .com addresses and 15 million .net addresses currently in use. For reference, there are a total of roughly 300 million domain names on the Internet.
King is focused on marketing and selling his .ink domain directly to self-publishers, writers, magazines, and bloggers—particularly “writers who aren’t necessarily making books.” As he explained, “We’re finding writers are turning to .ink because it’s fresh. Self-publishers are jumping on it.”
Right now, King said most of his customers are new business ventures. “It will take longer for existing businesses to cross over,” he said. But he noted that Rebel Ink, a long-standing tattoo magazine, will switch from using rebelinkmag.com to rebel.ink later this year. He also pointed to publishing-related sites such as tootsweet.ink, an independent publisher, and digital.ink, a self-publishing venture, as new businesses using .ink.
“We’re waiting for public awareness to grow,” King said. “When people start seeing Rays.pizza, that will validate us. We’re in the early days of the process.”