A New Internet Age – How New Top-Level Domains Change “Everything”
by Gaida Zirkelbach on June 29, 2011
We are all used to website domains ending in familiar top-level names such as .com, .net and .org. What we’re used to, and the Internet itself, is about to change. This is because the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved a plan to allow the creation of top–level domains (TLDs) including just about any word, in any language or alphabet. In other words, everything to the “right of the dot” is up for grabs.
Let’s say that you are “Company A” selling widgets. If you obtain the “.CompanyA” TLD, you could allow your business partners to operate businesspartner.CompanyA sites, giving them credibility. You could give your customers their own individual customer.CompanyA websites, to build brand loyalty. You could purchase the “.widget” TLD and either use it for your current business purposes or operate a registry that sells secondary domains to other businesses (such as “CompanyB.widget”). If you are a city, region or state, you could obtain the appropriatecity, region, or state TLD. You could also obtain these TLDs in non-Roman characters, such as in Chinese.
Getting one of these new, generic TLDs (gTLDs) won’t be cheap, easy or fast, though. Besides other legal and business costs, ICANN’s application fee for a gTLD will be $185,000, and, once obtained, ICANN will impose a $25,000 yearly fee. The first round of applications for the program, which are detailed in ICANN’s 352-page gTLD Applicant Guidebook, will be accepted from January 12, 2012 through April 12, 2012. ICANN will then review the applications, evaluating concerns such as Internet security and stability, whether the applicant can handle the technical, operational and financial responsibilities involved, and whether the applicant’s officers, directors and owners have past criminal or questionable behavior, such as cybersquatting. Initial evaluations of the proposed gTLDs will be published in November of 2012, and ICANN expects to grant unopposed, approved applicants their gTLDs in early 2013. Later in 2013, it is expected that second-level domain names from the new gTLDs (such aswidgets.CompanyA, ilove.widgets, buy.widgets) will be sold to the public.
While all of the implications and results of the new gTLDs are yet to be seen, it is already apparent that organizations should consider the following:
- Clearly, gTLDs are not for everyone. Organizations should consider whether or not to pursue a gTLD application, likely involving senior executives due to the cost involved and business and legal implications.
- Organizations should begin strategizing how to best protect their brand, especially once second-level domains names are released in 2013.
- ICANN will implement a procedure for filing formal objections to the issuance of a new gTLD based on legal rights, confusion with another gTLD, limited public interest or a community objection. Organizations and individuals interested in their brand and reputation should prepare to take advantage of the opportunity to object to the issuance of a new gTLD through public comment or by filing formal objections.
- Organizations seeking a gTLD should be prepared to negotiate and strike deals with other companies having legitimate claims to the gTLD. While ICANN plans to auction off domains if multiple parties have legitimate claims, it is expected that organizations will choose to resolve the matter through deals instead of public auctions.