The year is 1998. AOL is installed on virtually every consumer’s home PC, and past the horrible dialing sounds as it connected to the Internet via modem, AOL’s browser software and homepage were in your face. Every company promoted their AOL keyword on commercials and other advertisements.
Fast forward to 2012: we’re about to enter the realm of generic top level domain names, as ICANN is (after much delay, controversy and a major recent security hiccup) accepting applications for them in bulk so all the cybersquatters and other big players can get them first. But how is typing simply one word in a browser any different than AOL keywords? Let’s break it down finely.
1990′s: AOL Keywords
We all remember them, except the young ones: every advertisement it seemed plugged their AOL Keyword toward the end of the segment so users could find them easily on this Internet thing. You would go to the AOL website when you dialed up, type in a keyword like “Volkswagon” or something, and it would take you to a URL automatically.
This seemed revolutionary at the time, and gave AOL an advantage in the industry: even though registering for a keyword was (as far as I can remember) free, it gave AOL power and publicity over the corporations and people involved, namely its users and would-be users.
It’s the same model Google uses: offer a free service, parallel it with advertising for revenue, and people will use the service while you reap the rewards from the advertising. AOL may have taken it a step further with keyword bidding or the like even.
In the next decade, AOL Keywords would go by the wayside as broadband Internet access and Google search took over AOL’s dial-up market, where it seemed that only the really old people on a tight budget (and slow tech adjustment) retained the AOL
This includes people running AOL’s browser over broadband, which literally was new chrome over Internet Explorer’s Trident rendering engine via Windows programming APIs – but that’s a whole separate rant.
With the advent of Facebook and its popularity boom after the downfall of MySpace, everybody has a Facebook account now – kids, college kids, adults, grandparents stalking the college kids, bosses stalking their employees, the reach is endless.
With the surge in popularity of its user base, Facebook has also become a platform for advertising via its Facebook Pages – major companies create Facebook Pages and give news/offers via them, and users can “Like” (formerly “Become a fan of”) those pages, all while Facebook stalks the users’ activity and targets advertisements to them based on all that precious data.
This marked the first time in history some of the biggest brand names plugged another company’s name before their own – Nike, for example, proudly puts http://www.facebook.com/nike in their web advertisements instead of just nike.com. This is the same company that actively fines players for wearing their brand name in major professional sports without their sponsorship.
The Present: Generic Top-Level Domain Names
GTLDs, or .anything domain names as they are also referred to (and watch some cybersquatter gobble up the actual http://.anything/ address in light of this) are about to become the “new thing” in Internet history, as well as a new paradigm in product placement to replace AOL Keywords and hopefully Facebook pages.
This is nothing new, there have been talks about this for a long time. However, the aspect of simply typing “http://microsoft/” into your web browser (including Chrome with its unified address bar and search bar) taking you to Microsoft’s website is often glazed over in discussions of GTLDs.
It is no different than AOL keywords: companies reserve certain terms (in bulk, currently) and allow consumers to reach their site by simply typing a single word into any browser address bar.
I also see Facebook taking the “.fb” GTLD and making pages be anything.fb redirecting to facebook.com/anything as a result, since they will be scrambling to retain their superiority in the aftermath of the release of GTLDs.
As a user or webmaster, what are your thoughts on GTLDs? Let us know in the comments.
Mark is a "veteran" (and current) system administrator for a local IT firm in his hometown. He is notorious from his Coffee Desk days as the "funny guy" of the editorial staff, writing some pieces for sheer comic relief to the pleasure of many readers (example). Aside from his priceless humor, he has ample insight in the fields of networking and programming given his years of experience with them, often making quips about his own age in the process. Mark is the oldest member of the editors, and by far the most regular. Contributor, that is. :D