Cyber-Squatting Less of a Risk With ICANN's Dot-Brand gTLDs: Gartner

A common rationale for applying for the new generic top-level domains from ICANN has been to protect the brand. But a Forrester Research analyst suggests the risk may not be that high.

Despitestrong opposition from government officials, industry trade groups and companies, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has begun the application process to expand the Domain Name System.

As of midnight UTC Jan. 12, applicants were able request a generic top-level domain (gTLD) from ICANN. The suffixes can be the company name, such as .Microsoft or .Pepsi, or a regular word, such as .camera or .food. The application process consists of 50 questions, and applicants must respond with extensive business plans, financial statements and technical documentation about how the name would be managed along with a $185,000 nonrefundable application fee.

Many companies don't want to go through the process of registering their brand as a gTLD, but are concerned about "another applicant getting their string," Jeff Ernst, an analyst with Forrester Research, wrote Jan. 10 on the company's blog for CMO & Marketing Leadership Professionals. Of the 50 companies Ernst had talked with, fewer than 15 had a strategic initiative in mind for gTLDs, he said.

"Don't get so stuck in the hype about the risk of cybers-squatters or of someone else getting your dot-brand," Ernst wrote.

Many companies have defensively signed up for domains on other TLDs, such as Tuvalu's .tv, since the small country grants a domain under that suffix to almost anyone in the media business. Some companies and universities have registered for the newly created .xxx domain just to be on the safe side and keep adult content from appearing on Web search results for their names. Central Michigan University purchased,, and is waiting on

"I'm not a big fan of submitting a defensive registration," Ernst said, noting that it was extremely unlikely that ICANN would grant someone else who didn't actually have any IP rights to the brand the domain string. "Even if one could, no squatter will spend $185,000 on it," he said.

Ernst also didn't think it was necessary for organizations to think about registering the brand name on other gTLDs. "To what extent will Coca-Cola be harmed if someone buys and squats on or, when consumers come to learn that the only authentic Coke Web properties end in .coke?" Ernst wrote.

Under ICANN's rules, owners will be required to regularly maintain the Website acquired through the new URL. Many gTLD operators will also have to maintain a registry through which other applicants can obtain a secondary domain. For example, other people may apply to have a domain under the generic .food, such as or, in the same way people can currently apply for addresses on other TLDs.