How the web’s new landlords are making it easier than ever for anybody to build a website

All you need to do is move in.
All you need to do is move in.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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In the new domain-name land rush, the temptation of alternatives that range from .guru, to .sexy may not be enough to get many to switch from the old reliable .com. But some companies have a plan to lure businesses to make the switch.

Last month, the first of what will eventually be hundreds of new top-level domain names went live. In an instant, the web expanded exponentially, adding vast swathes of virtual estate ready for development. Initial interest has been strong, with brands and early adopters rushing to buy up space on the domains that have so far gone live.

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But even so, the 20 most popular new domains together account for only a little more than 200,000 registrations. That’s about the same as .name, introduced in 2000 (and widely considered a flop). The people promoting the new domain names now coming into existence—everything from .app to .xyz—hope to avoid the fate of .name by doing what real estate developers do. 

When large-scale property developers buy up tracts of virgin land, they usually don’t just stick a sign in the ground and hope that people will want to pony up for the vacant lots. Instead they build roads and cul de sacs, and then start raising rows of identical or similar homes, which they market for sale or rent to those looking for something new, nice, and inexpensive. Something similar is happening to the web.

One such development, which goes live this week, is Promoted by Rightside, a big player in the new TLDs, the service is being built on to top of .menu, a new web address aimed, unsurprisingly, at restaurant-owners who want to put their menus online. The theory is that instead of building their own websites and keeping them up to date, many restaurants would prefer to simply upload their menus to pre-built templates. For $10 a month, Rightside will provide the domain name (say, stock images, and offer an easy-to-use edit function to add, delete or re-order menu items. It would resemble the back-end of a blog.

Businesspeople call this “productization.” Don’t just sell something; package it, add value to it, and turn it into something worth buying. Rightside is hardly the first to think of it. A pioneer in productizing domain names was Juan Diego Calle, who bought the rights to Colombia’s domain, .co, and sells it as a shorter, special address for start-ups. He packages the domain with an email address and a starter webpage. Calle is also an investor in new TLDs, and plans to adopt a similar strategy with them, he told Quartz.

The hundreds of new domain names are meant to democratize the web, bringing choice and variety to the many millions of people and businesses coming online. Under the old system, anything but a .com web address was considered odd. The new multi-hued web was created to destroy those prejudices and provide niches for different types of interests. Not everybody is yet convinced it is necessary. But at least there is an effort to provide something more than a few characters in your address bar.