There's no bigger stage to unveil a new offering than a Super Bowl commercial, and Apple took advantage of its prime inclusion during the telecast by unveiling a new vanity URL service, reports TechCrunch. If you blinked, you might have missed it, but during the final seconds of the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer, the URL AppStore.com/StarTrekApp flashed across the bottom of the screen.
This reveal signified the launch of a new service for all app developers in either the iTunes App Store or the Mac App Store. All developers will now receive personalized vanity URLs related to the app submitted as chosen by Apple. Apple updated its developer documentation on January 31 to reflect the change, which will allow brands to give consumers these new URLs to directly access apps.
With Apple nearing one million apps, the question of name overlap comes into play. In this case, users will be directed to a search page displaying all of the apps that match the generic term.
The domain name AppStore.com was a gift from Salesfoce CEO Marc Benioff to late Apple visionary Steve Jobs. It could prove increasingly valuable if brands decide to take advantage of these new URLs in upcoming marketing campaigns.
Back in April, the domain name iCloud.com made news with rumors that Apple had purchased it for a cool $4.5 million from Swedish company Xcerion, who had changed the name of its cloud-based storage service from “iCloud” to “CloudMe.”
Now, it looks like clouds have rolled back into the media spotlight: according to TechCrunch, Citrix Systems has purchased Cloud.com – the business, not just the domain name – for between $200 and $250 million. Cloud.com provides software infrastructure platforms for clients like Zynga, Tata and others.
Citrix points out in its official announcement about the acquisition that it will now be able to offer “a complete portfolio of virtualization, orchestration and networking solutions purpose built for the Cloud Era.” And luckily for Citrix, the deal happens to come with a great domain name.
You’ve heard of brands buying their competitors’ brand names as keywords in Google’s AdWords program. According to a recent TechCrunch article, the practice has spread to Twitter’s Promoted Tweets feature: HP has “bought” Apple’s hash tag. In other words, HP has paid to have its promoted tweets appear when users search “#apple”, “#mac” and “#macbook”.
Of course, any Twitter user has the right to use any hash tag, and to make any word or phrase into a hash tag. Hash tags are a community creation, not an official feature provided by Twitter. For an overview of how they work, check out Twitter’s Help Center.
So what does it mean that HP “bought” Apple’s hash tags? Basically it means that when users search for #apple or any of the other tags HP purchased, or click on them in other users’ tweets, the first tweet they see will be from HP. This tweet will be clearly labeled as a promoted tweet, and from what I’ve observed, most are advertising deals on HP computers.
For many, Twitter is a great way to measure popular sentiment about a topic. They search a term, then briefly scan through the first page or two of tweets in order to get a general feel for what people think about it. Twitter actually just filed a UDRP against the owner of Twittersearch.com, (a play on twitter.com/search) where users can search for trends, based upon the value of these types of queries.
As with many IP issues in the social spaces, there is a lack of precedent on how to handle a situation like this. Until that time, I’m sure we’ll see plenty of competitors paying Twitter handsomely for the opportunity to speak to each other’s consumers.
As many of us are preparing our comments on ICANN’s latest new TLD guidebook, many companies are also trying to determine if they will actually apply for a new TLD if they arrive as scheduled by ICANN in May of 2011.
Even though many of the previously launched “new TLDs” did not bring about a meaningful shift in online consumer behavior, there is a shared concern among digital executives over not knowing what will happen with this launch, or what the appropriate action will be.
Imagine if Facebook is one company that applies for a new TLD in the first round. It might make sense; Facebook has had its fair share of username and security issues and Facebook users spend more time on facebook.com than any other site. The possibility of creating .FACEBOOK domains for each user, such as PhilLodico.facebook, might be interesting to Facebook and it would likely be valued by users as well.
Facebook alone has over 500 million users. That would translate to 500 million new domain names; tripling the number of domain names in existence overnight.
Now imagine adding in other Internet powerhouses like Google, Microsoft and Apple, and big brands like Coca-Cola, Disney and others. These companies have enormous reach in terms of customer touch points, not to mention budgets with which – if they wanted to – they could try to shift consumer behavior.
Between Facebook’s grassroots consumer behavior shift and a possible direct marketing program by brand leaders, there is no question; there is a chance that new TLDs will catch on.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could sit on the side and wait and see what other companies do? To see if Facebook does this? To see if 500 million new domain names are registered and to see what consumers begin to do. It would. But ICANN isn’t necessarily going to allow that to happen.
The biggest risk that new TLDs (if approved) present is that we only know that there will be one window that opens. The last time a window opened was seven years ago. What if ICANN gets overwhelmed with this launch? What if it takes years to process the 500 applications that they are talking about possibly receiving? What if ICANN is prevented from moving forward with another window because of abuse found in the space? What if it is 3, 5, or 7 years until the next window opens?
What happens to the brand owners that decided to wait on the sideline if new TLDs begin to catch on? Those that did apply will have the ultimate competitive advantage while those who didn’t will be sitting on the bench waiting for their chance to play catch up.
While I believe there is still an opportunity to alter if and how new TLDs will be released, this risk of being sidelined is one we all need to take seriously. And as ICANN has shown us, we need to start thinking about this soon.
TechCrunch recently picked up MacRumor’s report on Apple’s assumed possession of the domain name islate.com. MacRumor found that the whois information for the domain name lists “DNStination, Inc.”, a profile often used by corporate registrar MarkMonitor to “mask” domain ownership on behalf of their clients. The article also points out that MarkMonitor is the corporate registrar that Apple is known to work with.
What TechCrunch didn’t include is that MarkMonitor held the name on behalf of a client as far back as October 2006. Before that time, it was held by Eurobox Ltd. While we can’t confirm it, chances are the domain was acquired from Eurobox.
The TechCrunch reporter decided to do a little sleuthing and found other iSlate related domains that are registered by MarkMonitor and therefore likely linked to Apple.
So here’s a lesson for brands—no matter what “masked” Whois information a registrar sets up in the Whois profile of a domain you have purchased or registered, if yours is a corporate-only registrar, it’s too easy for the press, the public, competitors and others to guess what’s going on.
If the goal is to avoid media coverage and tipping off the masses, what’s the best way for a brand to go? Definitely use a corporate registrar like MarkMonitor for your registrations. Registering domains for big companies is their business and they know it well. However, if you have a new brand in mind and want to keep the press, competitors, and squatters off the trail, make it more anonymous – register through a consumer retail registrar like Network Solutions or GoDaddy and use their privacy service.
Maybe based on this recent article the registrars that service the domain registration needs of brand owners will offer a “super secret” anonymous registration and go outside their own registrar to make registrations. I think it would be a valuable service.