Businesses across the globe are preparing to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise thanks to the roll out of the new generic top-level domain (gTLD) extensions.

While firms have traditionally used suffixes such as .com, .org and .net to gain an online presence, the market is set to be opened up dramatically. It means domain names across a number of different sectors are going to be available.

Applications fall into three distinct groups: geographical regions like .paris, specific brand names such as .samsung and generic terms, an example of which is .beauty.

New gTLDs

In June of this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) made the list of applications public and so government bodies and firms alike were able to find out what URLs may be used moving forward.

Applications came from all parts of the world, while various groups – such as consumer brands, business-to-business companies and domain registries – sought to get their hands on some of the new domains. In total, 1,930 applications were listed, which is over four times the amount that were meant to be supported.

Early warnings

In late November, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) – a global panel of governmental delegates charged with providing advice to ICANN on issues of public policy – released a list of 242 early warnings. The list of contentious domain names sets out who the applicant is, what country they are from and why the body is not happy. The list can be viewed here:

Broad terms such as .casino, .charity and .search are being discussed, as there are fears that some organisations will be able to monopolize certain sectors. For instance, the Australian government complained about Amazon’s attempt to take control of .news, .shop and .song.

Further, anyone looking to object to an application can do so on four grounds:

  • String Confusion – The applied-for gTLD string is confusingly similar to an existing TLD or another domain that has been applied for
  • Legal Rights – If the applied-for gTLD string violates the legal rights of the objector
  • Limited Public Interest – Generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order recognised under principles of international law cannot be contradicted
  • Community – If substantial opposition to the gTLD application comes from a significant portion of the community the gTLD string is meant to be targeting

Objections may be filed until March 13th 2013.

Moving forward

The Prioritization Draw – which orders the release of initial evaluation results of all new gTLD applications – will take place today (December 17th). Throughout this, the application comment and program feedback forums will remain open so interested parties can add any anything they feel is pertinent to the debate.

The initial evaluation results will start being issued by ICANN in late March 2013 in weekly batches of 80-100 based on Draw position. The GAC is set to give more advice on new gTLD applications in April after the next ICANN public meeting, which will take place in Beijing, China from April 7th-12th. A number of topics are going to be up for discussion, including how to best proceed with the new gTLDs.

The first new gTLD delegation request is expected in May/June 2013.

New challenges

Many experts expect new gTLDs will bring further rise to threats against corporate identity online ranging from infringement to social engineering attacks against brand registries.  This could create some reputational issues for businesses and highlights how important it is to make sure brands are protected.

The clamour from well-known businesses to successfully gain ownership of a new domain is understandable. It can be a means of simplifying their URL strings, providing a more personalised brand experience for customers and creating a secure space for them to use.

This is why it will be interesting to see how the application process develops and if it radically alters how the internet is used.

Moving forward with gTLDs
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