Rarely does the world’s media get excited over a domain name story but yesterday’s announcement that Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regulating body for international domain names, had voted to introducing new gTLDs (generic top level domains) in 2012, seemed to get plenty of coverage.
That is probably because the new releases could change the way we look at domain names forever. The plan is to introduce new domains like ‘.eco’, ‘.green’, ‘.berlin’, ‘.paris’, ‘.auto’. Whereas a .com has almost lost its commercial-tag, and even .org lots its original not-profit making connotation, the new proposals from ICANN would launch a who new set of domain suffixes that offer an immediate description and identifier for the type of site or organisation using it. Where the new domains could also lead is the possibility of branding the internet, with the application procedure being very much pitched towards big businesses looking to secure their unique domain identifier.
As well as increasing the potential domain options available to the future it also opens up some interesting legal debates too. Ownership of the new domains can be applied for early next year via a 360 page application form and an application fee of around £114,000. Not cheap and therefore only really open to the very rich and biggest brands. Will this only serve to enhance their dominance? Is it right that an internet domain suffix be available simple to the person who could most afford it and with it their control over how it is policed and used? Some fear it is also a move too far away from the original internet ideals where everybody is equal and respected in equal measure.
The intellectual property lawyers will no doubt be kept busy too across the globe, arguing for and against what trademark and property rights owners should have preference for owning a domain suffix that clearly fits with two brands with equal claim but who in the traditional world operate in different spheres so have never really experienced conflict before.
Yet, once applied for and captured the hefty investment made by brand owners in obtaining that branded top level domain could be priceless. Imagine every one of your network, users or fans being able to use the username@yourdomain for their email address. No .com, just your brand. Tempting for sure.
How it all shakes up is yet to be seen. The application procedure will only be open for a handful of weeks at the start of next year and then, according to trusted rumour, the chance to grab your own gTLDs might not become available again for many years. It is almost now or never.
What are your thoughts on ICANN’s decision? Is it a positive thing for the internet?