While a number of new generic top-level domains (TLDs) on the Internet are likely to end up as failures due to the sudden proliferation of options for users (with .com possibly continuing to enjoy a dominant position anyway), the launching of some new religion-related TLDs may help some religious groups to increase their online profile.
Among nearly 2,000 TLD proposals submitted to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), with a few hundred already live, few were submitted by religious groups. The most prominent one is .catholic, which will be owned by the Holy See (Pontifical Council for Social Communication). The TLD .bible has been granted to the American Bible Society. Worth mentioning too are .lds and .mormon (LDS Church).
A Turkish company has submitted .islam. .shia and .halal, while the Aga Khan Foundation has submitted .imamat and .ismaili. However, considering the costs and requirements involved, few religious groups applied for their own TLD. But for English-speaking Christian denominations, there will now be an opportunity to create high profiles for themselves online.
Next month, the TLD .church will go live. There is currently a sunrise period for .church, in order to allow holders of trademarks to apply for their .church domain name. From September 10 to 16, an early-access program will allow people willing to pay a hefty price (from over $12,000 to a little under $200) to acquire their name. Then there will be general availability on a first-come first-served basis. Some names have been reserved by the registry and won’t be made available (e.g. christian.church, catholic.chuch or baptist.church).
Moreover, the registry won’t sell all names at the same price. Some names are considered premium and will be sold at a higher price even at the time of general availability. While some observers, such as David Topping, writing in The Desert Connection (July 16) are skeptical about the impact of the new TLD and its usefulness (beside brand protection), the rapidly evolving environment of the Internet makes such forecasts uncertain: owning their own .church domain name may be part of long-term online strategies for securing advantageous locations in cyberspace—even if the best name will be worth little without a quality website built on it.
(The Desert Connection, http://desertconnection.org/is-there-a-church-in-your-future/.)