Does your dot com domain name seem passé now? If not now, maybe by this time next year you could be searching for generic domain names that end in the likes of dot book, dot app, or dot buy. With these new choices are a long list of questions that many of us will have about the process of choosing and switching to new domain names. I’ve posed some of these questions to an expert in copyright, trademark, and web domain legal issues. The answers are included later in this post, and I invite comment from those of you who may be doing work for any of the applicant organizations that are scrambling to garner their gTLD domain recognition.
A small sampling of the generic top level domain application names is listed in the infographic image as displayed in Figure A below.
The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is slowly working toward the day when it expands the number of generic top level domains (gTLD) that can be used on the Internet. And on June 13 the first round of 751 applicants were revealed with the list of 1,930 applications from companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, giving us a peek into how the next level of domain names may evolve.
We now have corporations like Microsoft Corp, Wal-Mart, and Cisco Technology applying for new gTLDs such as .microsoft, .grocery and .cisco. Amazon EU S.à r.l. spent more than $14 million dollars for their various applications. For ICANN this is a boon for their business, as they have taken in over $357 million in application fees, but for some, the new gTLD plan is considered a form of Internet extortion as Laura Weinstein points out in her blog. In particular, she cites the implicit endorsement recognized by Google’s participation in the program.
How will ICANN sort out the applications for gTLDs, especially among organizations that have requested the same domain name? For example, three applicants have requested the “beauty” string, nine applicants have requested the “blog” string, nine others have applied for the “book” string, and thirteen have applied for the “app” string.
As I sort through the list of revealed applicants and their requested gTLD string, I have to wonder what the future holds for some of the organizations. For example, Steel Falls, LLC has applied for the “agency” string, and Amazon EU S.à r.l. has applied for seventy-six various strings ranging from “amazon”, to “app”, to “book”, to “buy”, to “zero”.
The legal perspective
I asked the respected copyright, trademark, and web domain legal expert, David Weslow, Attorney At Law, with Wiley Rein, LLP, for his insight about how the applications will be evaluated, along with some related questions. Here is what he had to say.
Weslow: If competing gTLD applications have satisfied the application requirements in equal measure, and are unable to resolve the conflict by an agreement, ICANN will ultimately award the gTLD to the winning applicant in an auction.
What are companies like Amazon hoping to accomplish with possibly winning all seventy-six of their applications for new gTLDs?
Weslow: These companies appear to believe that potential customers will look for gTLDs that correspond to products or services that their customers hope to find online. Applying for desirable gTLDs during the current first round of new gTLDs will allow the applicant companies to exclusively control use of the most valuable gTLDs for 10 years.
Also, once the new gTLDs become valid, this could present a problem for network administrators of organizations that have servers or computers with similar names such as %computer_name%.amazon, or .agency. For example, the applications and software that resolve through Domain Name Services (DNS) may now have configuration and security issues as they attempt to resolve to resources outside of the organization’s network. This will be one to keep a watchful eye on as the new gTLDs become public. Network administrators may be scrambling, and it might also lend to more hiring in that area of IT infrastructure support as well.
Has ICANN offered any assistance or guidance with networking conflicts that may occur between organizations’ internal node names as the new gTLDs go into effect?
Weslow: No, ICANN has indicated that competing applicants should seek to work together to resolve any conflicts if they would like to avoid an ultimate auction of the applied-for gTLD.
What is the next phase of the gTLD application process?
Weslow: A public comment process and formal objection process are currently underway. It is anticipated that ICANN will begin formal evaluation of the gTLD applications in mid-July with results of the evaluations expected in October.
When will the new gTLD’s be made available for use?
Weslow: The second quarter of 2013 is likely the earliest that we will begin to see new gTLDs go live.
What do you identify as the major hurdles for a smooth transition to the new gTLDs?
Weslow: Marketplace recognition and adoption are the two largest stumbling blocks. The gTLD registry operators likely will need to invest significant resources to develop consumer recognition that a ‘dot whatever’ gTLD is a valid and desirable web address.
The future to contemplate
These are just the beginnings of change for the Internet domain name world. As a web developer, how are you going to be affected by the gTLDs once they go live? Do you work for one of the organizations that have applied for a gTLD? If so, what are you doing now to prepare for the new wave of domain names to hit your development world?