After initial interest in October 2008, is this something for big brands to be worried about in 2010.
First of all, what is a top level domain(TLD). Putting it simple its the .com or .uk in your domain name. There is a finite number of them and they are controlled by ICANN the internet body responsible for assigning names. Today there are no major threats to big brands from the present listings they are mainly geographical or pseudo listings. i.e. .jobs or .aero.
However back in 2008 it was announced by ICANN to open up these domains for subscription. They launched a draft guidebook suggesting a process to enable international organisations to franchise a TLD. i.e. this could mean that Staarbucks could purchase .staarbucks or Toyota could purchase .toyota. This means a fundamental shift in thinking and strategy for those organisations and their web presence. Not to mention trademark issues and protection of brand.
i.e. how do you deal with domain name structure internationally? How does it affect your current internet presence? How do you protect the TLD for your organisation? How do we protect our brand or products?
Is this something to worry about? Yes in the long term, however not initially. The costs for top level domains will be about US$185,000, with a $25,000 franchisor fee. Legals and I.T. registrations costs will be in addition to this. ICANN have not formally launched the process and are so far working the logistics. They are rolling out a language specific TLD mechanism at the moment that will enable non english domains names, including unicode. We may expect some announcement this year however it is unlikely. Its worth giving a thought to your strategy now and in the short term, think about the multi lingual domain strategy as this is happening now. For example China is well under way. Do your products or company name translate into Mandarin? If so you should think about having a domain name registered in this language.