It seems that the past year has been a bumper crop in terms of new launches – certainly a lot more of my time has been spent finding out about these new extensions and forwarding/ translating information to and for my clients.
In fact, there have been so many launches, that we now distinguish them by subcategories:
- We talk of a Liberalisations, when the registry decides to lift restrictions in place to allow more people to be able to acquire the extension. One example is Estonia, with whom up until this summer you could only have one domain name per legal entity, but now you can have as many domains as you wish for.
- A TLD Expansion (Top Level) – is when the registry decides to open-up a previously unavailable top level domain. For example, Mexico making .MX available when for years you could only register under .COM.MX
- When we talk of a Registry Transition and/or TLD Relaunch, we mean that an already existing TLD is being positioned differently. The best recent example I can think of is Columbia launching .CO and branding not as .co for Columbia but as the new .com: “If you don’t have the .COM, get the .CO”.
- Finally, when the extension did not exist previously, then we talk about a New TLD Launch. Recent and upcoming examples are of course the IDN ccTLDs or the new gTLDs.
You may be wondering why the sudden need to expand the already rich 700+ portfolio of existing extensions, and who is driving this anyway? The registries? ICANN? Or is it public demand? Well as these things go, the answer is never that simple, and in short it’s a little bit of everyone.
A majority of registries have been operating for years and have reached a certain maturity, new registrations will still come in but domains are also lapsed as trademark owners try to keep their portfolios under control. So, business for a lot of these registries isn’t growing anymore, and along with that issue looms the threat of new gTLDs. No one as yet knows which way the wind will blow with new gTLDs, but if they pick up then potentially traditional extensions will become obsolete and supplanted by community or vanity extensions. So, this could explain why registries are being very active in creating new demand and new uses for their extensions. These are generally not consumer driven, but then any good marketer will tell you that you don’t wait for demand to magically appear you create it. So geographical boundaries are extended, minimum character strings are shortened, IDNs are suddenly offered, etc.
What consumers have been driving though, much to trademark owners’ dismay is IDN ccTLDs. You may or may not agree with them, but in the same way that not everyone speaks English, not everyone is familiar with Latin characters. IDN ccTLDs will help more people around the world gain access to the Internet and hence to knowledge.
Finally, with new gTLDs well they were ICANN’s brainchild, but now many people have jumped on the bandwagon and are pushing the idea forward as they see it as a business opportunity. Whether you see yourself in the business of helping people and companies set themselves up as registrars, or whether you have an idea for a new extension that will take the world by storm – new gTLDs are driven by many stakeholders, the only question is: Are they going to take off? If internet users at large don’t adopt the idea, then a lot of time and resources will have been wasted not only in securing and managing the gTLD but also in marketing costs in trying to educate consumers. If it does take off, then the internet as we know it will change dramatically, this could quite possibly put an end to cybersquatting and phishing. If you are the registry of your extension .brand, then consumers and clients will know that the content of a domain ending in that extension is endorsed by you, anything else can be dismissed and that means you will no longer lose revenue in counterfeit sales, and your clients will no longer risk identity fraud. Nor will you have to spend huge sums of money on domains acquired by third parties. It might even mean you can reduce your portfolio to a handful of domains. Who knows?
In the mean time, here are a few pointers in managing this onslaught on new extensions. First of all decide which ones are an opportunity for you and which ones are a threat. If they are an opportunity, then obviously register domains against them. If they are a threat, then assess how big of a threat. The key is to always check what the registration fees and conditions are. If the fees are expensive and will stay expensive, then domainers aren’t going to be quite so keen to register names under that extension. If the rules are strict, then they might not even be able to register under that extension, but don’t count on that one, as we saw earlier, it is not in the interest of registries to be too stringent. If you have to register domains as a preventive measure, then use tools like CSC’s traffic tracking solution, to see if the domain receives many hits – this can help you decide at a later stage whether to keep the domain or not. Also check the popularity of the extension – has it taken off? There are so many extensions now, that many get lost and are just not used to the same extent as others. CSC’s Domain Monitoring solution can help you identify infringer trends and patterns as well as keep an eye on domains registered by third parties using your brand. Finally, consider the cost of registering domains versus the cost of enforcing your rights at a later stage – your budget will suffer less if you register domains that you then lapse if they are of no value. Recovering a valuable domain held hostage by an infringer will always cost you more.
As with everything though, if you are lost or unsure, ask us for help.
Natalie Leroy, European Account Manager