Follow-up to last week’s ICANN decisions – New TLDs, a Good Idea?

By June 30, 2008 ENUM No Comments

As previously reported, ICANN announced a number of significant decisions last week at it’s meeting in Paris. For most, the most notable of these was the announcement ICANN will allow new gTLDs. Some of the press think this is a significant and great idea. Others, probably with trademark lawyers or representative bodies whispering in their ears, think the decision is nigh on calamitous.

The possibilities are endless with media reports noting options for creating a slew of gTLDs from city TLDs such as .berlin, .paris and .nyc and country gTLDs such as .sco (Scotland) and .cym (Wales), all of which have people working behind them, some for several years. Other possibilities are .ebay, .car and .sport, with the former having the online auction house interested, while Patrick vande Walle is just one person interested in .sport.

The possibility of hundreds or even thousands of new gTLDs is probably remote due to the cost. Figures bandied about suggest this would cost over $100,000 to get approved. I don’t believe this includes costs such as setting up a registry and other associated costs once approved.

If there are a few gTLDs proposed and approved, then it is likely some trademark and brand owners will register the relevant domain names. But if there are eventually hundreds, or even thousands, what would be the point of taking out a defensive registration for your trademark and brand when there may only be a few thousand registrations. Major trademarks and brand owners now do not even take out defensive registrations on the smaller ccTLDs. It will take a critical mass of registrations to make it worthwhile for these defensive registrations to be worth the time and effort and cost.

So there is a lot of hoo-ha from trademark lawyers and their ilk.

“Once you’re up and running, you’ll be in for the long haul,” a Nominet spokesperson told ZDNet. “You will have to prove [beforehand that] that you’ve got the right operational skills and technical background and infrastructure to maintain stability on the internet. It’s hard to say exactly how it’ll turn out. There is an ‘opposition’ phase in there as well; people will be able to oppose certain applications. I don’t think [ICANN] have made that part of the process totally clear at the moment.”

There is also talk of internet users becoming confused with a large number of new TLDs. I have some sympathy for this argument, although internet users seem to cope quite well with some odd company registrations. Take the domain name cue.cc. No, it’s got nothing to do with anything on the Cocos and Keeling Islands, but rather a mid-market younger women’s clothing chain in Australia. And the company seems quite happy with this so they must not have problems getting Australians to their website. Security on the other hand could be an issue if gTLDs are lax in taking care of this. But this happens with ccTLDs now.

ICANN should be congratulated for making this decision, along with others intended to end domain tasting, increase DNS security and expand internationalised domain names. Some of these are a long time coming and it is easy to argue too long a time coming. But they are on their way.

A list of the adopted resolutions and further information on the meeting is available from the ICANN website at icann.org/minutes.

For more reading in the international press on the outcomes of last week’s ICANN meeting in Paris, see:

  • Domain name shakeup may bring new net goldrush

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/jun/27/internet.digitalmedia

  • Major internet shake-up heralds new web addresses

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/jun/26/internet

  • I’ve got a .bridge I’d like to sell you

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/jun/27/charles.arthur1

  • The online name game – The internet will soon explode with new domain names – and we will suffer a worldwide identity crisis

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/27/internet

  • New internet domains will cost $100k-plus

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article4218629.ece

  • ‘There’s going to be a lot of demand. The sky’s the limit’

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article4221994.ece

  • Simple Googling could put paid to hopes of cash bonanza

http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article4222028.ece

  • ICANN backs custom domains, gives brand-owners nightmares

http://out-law.com/page-9214

  • ALAC report: Barriers to meaningful participation

http://blog.internetgovernance.org/blog/_archives/2008/6/29/3754794.html

  • Will ICANN move to control routing security? by Brenden Kuerbis

http://blog.internetgovernance.org/blog/_archives/2008/6/25/3762527.html

  • ICANN Paris: a revealing exchange by Milton Mueller

http://blog.internetgovernance.org/blog/_archives/2008/6/25/3762356.html

ICANN to Add New Top-Level Domains, World to Come to an End by John Levine
http://www.circleid.com/posts/86299_icann_new_top_level_domains/

  • Why New TLDs Don’t Change a Thing by Kevin Ohashi

http://ohashi.info/article/why-new-tlds-dont-change-thing

  • Don’t say dot.com, say dot.Cym

http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Culture&F=1&id=14512

  • Independence for Scots – on the web

http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/scitech/Independence-for-Scots–on.4233943.jp

  • Launching a .XXX Domain Through ICANN’s Backdoor, Instead of its Front Door, Won’t Protect Kids or Society from Hardcore Pornography [news release]

http://www.earnedmedia.org/mim0627.htm

  • Lawyers, analysts: ICANN vote will cause URL chaos

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39440185,00.htm

Also see the ICANN announcement of the decision:

Biggest Expansion in gTLDs Approved for Implementation [news release]

The Board of ICANN approved
a recommendation that could see a whole range of new names introduced
to the Internet’s addressing system.

“The Board today accepted a recommendation from its global
stakeholders that it is possible to implement many new names to the
Internet, paving the way for an expansion of domain name choice and
opportunity” said Dr Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN.

A final version of the implementation plan must be approved by the
ICANN Board before the new process is launched. It is intended that the
final version will be published in early 2009.

“The potential here is huge. It represents a whole new way for
people to express themselves on the Net,” said Dr Twomey. “It’s a
massive increase in the ‘real estate’ of the Internet.”

Presently, users have a limited range of 21 top level domains to
choose from — names that we are all familiar with like .com, .org,
.info.

This proposal allows applicants for new names to self-select their
domain name so that choices are most appropriate for their customers or
potentially the most marketable. It is expected that applicants will
apply for targeted community strings such as (the existing) .travel for
the travel industry and .cat for the Catalan community (as well as
generic strings like .brandname or .yournamehere). There are already
interested consortiums wanting to establish city-based top level
domain, like .nyc (for New York City), .berlin and .paris.

“One of the most exciting prospect before us is that the expanding
system is also being planned to support extensions in the languages of
the world,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN’s Chairman. “This is going
to be very important for the future of the Internet in Asia, the Middle
East, Eastern Europe and Russia.” The present system only supports 37
Roman characters.

Upon approval of the implementation plan, it is planned that
applications for new names will be available in the second quarter of
2009.

Frequently asked questions on the process

1. Are you selling these new names?

ICANN is not “selling” new top level domain names. There will be a
limited application period where any established entity from anywhere
in the world can submit an application that will go through an
evaluation process. It is anticipated that there will be additional
rounds relatively soon after the close of the first application round.

2. What’s to stop others registering my brand name?

Trademarks will not be automatically reserved. But there will be an
objection-based mechanism for trademark owners where their arguments
for protection will be considered.

3. How did this proposal get developed?

ICANN has a multi-stakeholder policy development process that
served as the foundation for the process design. It involved
consultation with domain name industry, trade mark attorneys, the
business sector, users, governments and technicians.

4. How will offensive names be prevented?

Offensive names will be subject to an objection-based process based
on public morality and order. This process will be conducted by an
international arbitration body utilizing criteria drawing on provisions
in a number of international treaties. ICANN will not be the decision
maker on these objections.

5. When will all this happen?

ICANN is working towards accepting the first applications in the second quarter of 2009.

About ICANN:

ICANN is responsible for the global coordination of the Internet’s
system of unique identifiers like domain names (like .org, .museum and
country codes like .uk) and the addresses used in a variety of Internet
protocols that help computers reach each other over the Internet.
Careful management of these resources is vital to the Internet’s
operation, so ICANN’s global stakeholders meet regularly to develop
policies that ensure the Internet’s ongoing security and stability.
ICANN is an internationally organized, public benefit non-profit
company. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.

This announcement was sourced from icann.org/en/announcements/announcement-4-26jun08-en.htm.