This is the first in a series of three blogs on the new gTLDs
Most of you are probably familiar with the common Internet domain name endings such as “.com”, “.net”, or “.org”, which, when combined with an organization’s or individual’s name, serve as addresses for websites in cyberspace (e.g., “microsoft.com”). The portion to the right of the dot is the Top-Level domain (“TLD”). One type of TLD is a “generic” TLD (gTLD), such as .com; another is a “cc TLD” or country code, such as “.jp.” . The portion to the left of the dot is called a “second-level domain name” and is the name of the organization or individual. To date, only 22 gTLDs exist. Beginning on January 12, 2012, however, the Internet will open up to a potentially infinite number of new top level domains or “gTLDs”. This Blog briefly explores how the launch of these new top level domains could change the Internet -- and affect your organization -- dramatically.
What will the changes look like? The launch of new gTLDs means that anyone with the means can become a “registry” that creates and manages a database of domains ending with a particular top level domain that it selects. That new gTLD can be a generic term (e.g., “.bank”, “.wine”) or a brand name (e.g., “.canon”, “.nokia”). The registry should have a say in setting the rules for entities eligible to register under that gTLD. For example, if the gTLD is a generic term such as “.bank”, the registry may require that registrants actually offer banking services. If the registry is a car manufacturer using its brand name as the gTLD (e.g., “.mercedes”), it may require that only authorized dealers can register in its gTLD space (e.g., “manhattandealer.mercedes”). Still other registries might use the new gTLDs for creative promotional purposes. The camera company Canon was the first to express an interest in setting up a new registry, under .canon. The company may use “.canon” for marketing purposes, issuing second level domain names to Canon camera owners and embedding a unique chip in the buyers’ cameras so that they could upload photos onto [buyer’s name].canon.
The registry will set the rules for bodies called “registrars”, which are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the global body that governs the Internet. The registrars will, in turn, sell to individual registrants the right to combine their second level names with the top level domain for a limited period of time.
How does one become a Registry? The requirements are rigorous, and include a significant financial payment ($185,000), a demonstration of financial stability, and sophisticated technical support on a 24/7 basis. If a Registry elects to outsource its technical work, its financial commitment could run $1 million or more. Applicants must complete a 40+ page application and 10 detailed specifications demonstrating their financial and technical capability. ICANN is not planning to post the actual new GTLD application. This link, here, will allow an Internet visitor to navigate through the application process. ICANN will evaluate the applications. Among other things, it will guard against the granting of multiple new gTLDs that are confusingly similar to a previous gTLD. The application window lasts for only four months, from January 12, 2012 to April 12, 2012.
What to watch out for if you are not a Registry: Becoming a Registry is not for everyone. Some organizations do not have the expertise or the financial wherewithal, or want to make the commitment required. Still others, such as non-commercial entities that do not sell products or services, might not stand to gain by carving out a space they can control to some degree on the Internet.
If you are not in the “Registry Game”, you should be prepared to act defensively to:
- Object to a third party’s proposed gTLD that incorporates your trademark; or
- Object to a third party’s attempt to register second level domains incorporating your name or trademark within the new gTLD space.
The next blog post in this series will describe these defensive mechanisms and explains how they work. The third and final post will sum up the new gTLD process and suggests strategies for an organization to adopt as the launch date approaches.