The launch of the .London domain name has been accompanied by a great deal of hype but the change is more than just cosmetic. This is a real opportunity for smaller organisations to make their mark in the cut-throat world of online business.
As of this week, businesses based in London have a three-month head start over others to get a .London address. After that, the URL will be available to businesses anywhere. So far 100,000 have registered, and they are wise to do so.
The .London domain name is one of a range of new options being brought in by ICANN and IANA, the organisations that take care of the system. Names such as .company .club .marketing .technology .coffee .holiday and locations like .London .Berlin are set to change the face of the internet but they are also a powerful tool for building brands.
It's all part of a wider shift towards the digital economy, branding online and address space commercialisation. There has been a significant push in Europe recently to get businesses to digitise in order to generate growth and jobs and changes like the new domain names can really help. Regional identity is a powerful force at times, particularly as businesses of one type or another cluster in one area. Berlin, Silicon Valley and London are all emerging as technology hubs and could benefit from a domain name identity.
Connected cities are a new phenomenon of our time, it's not restricted to social networks and free public wifi but a major shift in thinking about how digitisation in housing, planning and development, health, traffic and emergency services, commercial industry and citizens play a part in economic growth.
Digital infrastructure, data and technologies are a vital part of this because a step change can happen when information technology improves productivity, helps you to sell products or enables you to provide a better service.
What's in a digital name?
Businesses need better broadband and connectivity to offer digital services such as apps or online purchasing but they also need an awareness of the goods and services that are already on offer in their area so that they remain competitive.
The challenge is for digital businesses to get themselves discovered and to work effectively through websites, mobiles and tablets while connecting to the physical world in which their customers actually live.
The digital world still has to reach buyers and sellers and to legitimise original sources of these products and services. Having a URL that sets them apart but also places them in a physical location can be a better way to enhance their brand presence when you're trying to bridge the digital and physical divide.
Large companies such Google and Amazon entered the market early and dominate our online lives as a result. When we want to buy something, we think Amazon and when we want an online service, Google is often the first place we look. But now is the time for smaller businesses to take them on and win a place in the hearts of consumers. With a recognisable URL for their business, they have more chance of sticking in a customer's head, which increases their chances of being the first port of call when that user searches online for a product.
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