The Great (.asia) Land Grab
Outside of the webmaster world, the average internet user can barely spell TLD, let alone define it. For domainers and SEO-driven site flippers, however, the availability of a new ICAAN-approved domain extension means opportunity. Languages, like land, are vast but finite…and each word can only be used once per extension.
For those who think SEO was a pop-rock band of the eighties (possibly Speedwagon?), the appearance of a new TLD is like finding a new continent to plunder. The dictionary, long worn out for .com and most .net and .org domain names, suddenly becomes virgin territory.
If you host with a full service registrar, you may have received an invitation to invest in the newest public offering, available as of March 26: .asia. Touted as a valuable tool to reach the gigantic market of the Pacific Rim, this release seems more like a ploy to bring vast resources to the coffers of registration entities.
Certainly, nearly half of the world’s population resides in Asia. One might even argue that a significant number in each nation are literate in a Latin-lettered laguage. The covered area includes Australia, for example, for reasons which are a bit unclear, since the Land Down Under already has its own .au extension and is generally considered a continent distinct from Asia.
Most other affected countries also have national Top Level Domain assignments, such as China, India and Malaysia, in addition to being able to use the internationally available standard extensions. So the notion of a “regional” TLD for Asia seems redundant.
In general, the pitch is to those who are after ranking on google.com, not google.asia. Although there is a technical requirement that the registrant have ties to one of the 73 participating countries, the real duckets are being poured into English-language terms. Naturally, the premium words have all been reserved and auction at absurdly high prices reflective of the quick-buck nature of the release.
But these domains are not being registered by primarily by Asian companies, nor (except for the gullible) those who wish to market to Asian consumers. After all, when you market to a population, you do it in their language. And the undeniable reality is that the vast majority of Asians use a written idiogram-based system which will not regard .asia as any different from the other foreign symbols which appear in international search results.
Overall, it looks as if the major participants in the mad rush for short, dictionary .asia domains have not been internationally minded commercial concerns vying to be more accessible to the Asian audience, but, like .cn before it, cybersquatters and spam-oriented darkhatted SEO’s who know the value of keyword-rich domains.