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 cmich.xxx, cmuchippewas.xxx, thisiscentral.xxx and is waiting on CentralMichiganUniversity.xxx.
“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 coke.golf or coke.london, 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 organic.food or homecooked.food, in the same way people can currently apply for addresses on other TLDs.
Defensive gTLD Acquisitions an Expensive Strategy
Organizations should evaluate the opportunity “strategically” and consider what new business initiatives or models would be possible with the new ability to “own and operate a registry,” Ernst said.
For organizations applying defensively to protect their brand, the registry would be exceptionally onerous, according to the United States Department of Commerce. “We think, and I am sure ICANN and its stakeholders would agree, that it would not be healthy for the expansion program if a large number of companies file defensive top-level applications when they have no interest in operating a registry,” Lawrence Strickling, the assistant secretary for communications and information at the U.S. Department of Commerce and administrator of the department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, wrote in a letter to ICANN Jan. 3.
ICANN board members voted to open the number of domain name fixes at their meeting in Singapore last June. At the moment, there are 22 gTLDs, including .com, .biz, .info and .org. There are also about 250 country-specific domains such as .co.uk, .ca and .jp. Along with brand names and generic words, ICANN will also accept applications using non-Latin characters and non-English words.
ICANN will keep accepting applications until April 12. After the application window closes, ICANN is not expected to reopen the process for at least two or three years. Prospective applicants have to register for the TLD Application System (TAS) by March 29, since TAS is the only way they can apply for the domain name suffix.
ICANN has previously estimated it will receive 500 to 1,000 applications. There are reports they have received a little less than 300 so far.
This isn’t the only land-grab of high-demand domain names going on at the moment. RegistryPro, the operator of the .pro TLD is currently in the midst of a seven-day auction offering one-, two- and three-character domain names that had previously been unavailable. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, bidders can try to buy domains such as 1.pro, go.pro, 3D.pro and job.pro, the company said.
“Everyone knows the value of a short domain name, and we are happy to give the professional public the opportunity to bid on these great .PRO names,” said Karim Jiwani, president of RegistryPro.