ICANN Spurs the Next Internet Land Grab

Isn't nostalgia great! Nowadays, it seems like any old trend, TV show or celebrity is coming back-hula hoops, Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, heck, there's even a Smurfs movie coming out. And based on some recent news, it looks like another fun, old trend will be making a return performance in coming years. Remember the heyday of the old Internet bubble? Remember how everyone and their uncle were rushing to gobble up every Internet domain name that might prove to be even slightly valuable? Well, guess what? That's coming back! At a recent meeting in Paris, the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), unanimously approved a proposal to open up TLD (top-level domain) names in coming years. Now, for those who don't know, the TLDs are the base of all Internet addresses, with examples being .com, .net, .gov and .org. Under ICANN's new proposal, anything will become fair game for a new TLD: .sex, .money, .smurfs, .movies, .ICANNsshamelessmoneygrab-you name it. I can see the hordes of Internet con artists slavering at the bit as we speak.

lol.jpg

Isn't nostalgia great! Nowadays, it seems like any old trend, TV show or celebrity is coming back—hula hoops, Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, heck, there's even a Smurfs movie coming out.

And based on some recent news, it looks like another fun, old trend will be making a return performance in coming years.

Remember the heyday of the old Internet bubble? Remember how everyone and their uncle were rushing to gobble up every Internet domain name that might prove to be even slightly valuable? Well, guess what? That's coming back!

At a recent meeting in Paris, the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), unanimously approved a proposal to open up TLD (top-level domain) names in coming years. Now, for those who don't know, the TLDs are the base of all Internet addresses, with examples being .com, .net, .gov and .org.

Under ICANN's new proposal, anything will become fair game for a new TLD: .sex, .money, .smurfs, .movies, .ICANNsshamelessmoneygrab—you name it. I can see the hordes of Internet con artists slavering at the bit as we speak.

Of course, there will be some key differences between this Internet land grab and the last one, namely in the cost to join in. Getting an old school .com domain could be done for the cost of lunch. Participating in this TLD will cost a bit more, most likely $100,000 plus.

But while that's a lot for me and you, even small companies may find it to be a totally worthwhile investment to own an entire new set of potential Web sites.

I have to admit that when I heard of this proposal I was torn. From a purely technical standpoint, there is no real reason why there shouldn't be a wide variety of options in TLDs. The controls over them have become too strong, and the TLDs don't really mean anything. I mean, how many sites with .com are actually companies?

But looking at this proposal, I think it has the potential to cause a lot more harm than good. From the perspective of bad guys, the ability to trick people into going to what they think are legitimate sites will get a whole lot easier. Business competition could get ugly in these areas. If Hyatt owns .hotels, where does that leave the Marriott and the Hilton? And the potential for user confusion will increase dramatically: What's the Web site address? Is it mybank.com, mybank.bank or mybank.money?

In the end, I think ICANN is making this move for one simple reason, money. Or to use another Internet trend, it's their ICANN Has More Money? strategy (it sounds cuter that way).

This proposal is clearly focused to generate profit from large companies and government entities. And while they say that they will only award TLDs to those with solid business plans, I'll be willing to bet a really nice lunch that in the end there will be more than a few shady characters controlling TLDs.

There was one positive note from the IICANN meeting. They did make a ruling that will render it harder for scammers to do domain hoarding or tasting, by implementing a small fee for the domain grace period.

This was a good move but it is overshadowed by the TLD announcement. We'll see if opening up the core domains of the Internet is a good or bad idea.

Right now, I'm leaning toward bad. That doesn't mean I'm not hoarding my pennies to snatch up that .techgod domain though.