There are currently a total of only 22 top level domains, including the three most well-known: .com, .net, and org. In June 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the quasi-governmental body responsible for administration of the domain name space—revealed applications for 1930 new ones. Six hundred fifty of these 1930 applications are for brand names. Many recognizable brands applied for their company names to become a domain that appears as “.brand”. For example, “.kodak”, and “.apple”. The new top-level domains (TLDs) are going to change the landscape of the internet, the question is how much and for who?
Right now, companies and countries are the only ones dealing with the consequences of this new space on the internet. The main issue being that companies who applied for these applications are facing a little bit of competition because not only did companies apply for their brand names companies applied to own the rights to generic terms. For example, among the 1900+ top level domain name applications are four competing applications to register the generic top level domain “.auto”. The applicants for .auto are Uniregistry, Donuts Inc., Fegistry and Dot Auto Inc., all non-endemic to the automotive industry. Donuts and Uniregistry—along with another company, DerCars LLC—also plan to battle it out for .cars.
Another conflict in the new TLD space if over “.africa”. DotConnectAfrica mistakenly applied for “.dotafrica” instead of “.africa” in its application during the new TLD process. DotConnectAfrica trust is Kenya-based with headquarters in Mauritius. They are competing against UniForum SA (NPC), trading as Registry Africa, which is officially supported by the African Union.This endorsement and the errors in DotConnectAfrica’s original application leave their chances slim at best of secure the TLD. Additionally, according to its new TLD guidebook, ICANN is obliged to look for the official endorsement for geographic TLDs – for regions at least 60 percent of the respective governments have to be supportive – the DotConnectAfrica’s bid can hardly win. The resolution of conflicting applications will be interesting.
Companies who did not enter the race for ownership of TLD are also facing increased challenges. They have to prepare to protect their brands from increased cybersquatting and other malicious attacks. Brand owners in all industries are rightfully concerned about potential misuse of the new top-level domains. ICANN has put procedures in place to ensure companies can object to the issuance of new top-level domains but nothing is foolproof.
How does this effect you? Well if you’re worried about getting scammed by a fake website or getting scammed the hundreds of other ways hackers have developed online, the risk has increased. On the other hand, this could make for a great consumer experience. Consumers will be able to find things easier and have more choice in how and where they search. Companies will be able better tailor a users experience by creating sites like “JohnDoe.kodak”. Users will have an easier and more personalized experience.
Keep an eye out as these TLDs launch. The .xxx TLD already launched and hasn’t made too many waves but with the potential for a large influx of new TLDs we will see noticeable changes in the way we use the internet.