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ICANN: New domains coming in 2010

Debate rages about trademark protection, registry/registrar separation and cost

By , Network World
June 24, 2009 02:01 PM ET

Network World - Internet policymakers are forging ahead with a controversial plan to introduce hundreds of generic top-level domains -- such as .nyc, .sport and .food -- next year.

However, U.S. corporations with large portfolios of domain names are still pushing for a go-slow approach and more protection for trademark owners to prevent cybersquatting and other deceptive practices such as phishing.

In addition, leading registries are arguing for the continued separation of back-end and retail domain name operations. ICANN also faces criticism about the fees it plans to charge new gTLD applicants.

The issue of new gTLDs is the hottest topics at this week's meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is being held in Sydney, Australia.  

ICANN says the new gTLDs will provide more innovation, choice and competition on the Internet, especially for non-English language domains. The new domains can be anywhere from three to 63 characters in length and can support Chinese, Arabic and other scripts.

So far, dozens of groups have announced plans to apply for new gTLDs representing cities such as .paris, regions such as .africa, charities such as .green, and generic terms such as .food and .wine. Some companies plan to reserve their own names such as .deloitte.

"ICANN has announced that they will start taking applications in the first quarter of 2010," says Brian Cute, vice president of Afilias, which is providing back-end services to the proposed .eco domain for environmental information. "ICANN is going to be publishing a third version of its guidebook [for new gTLD applicants]…so they are going to be reaching a decision relatively soon."

ICANN, which has been talking about adding new gTLDs since 2007, has issued two versions of its applicant guidebook to the Internet community for comment. A final version of the guidebook is expected by October.

Tim Switzer, vice president of NeuStar Registry Services, says ongoing discussion surrounds the following issues: protection for trademarks and intellectual property; whether registrars can operate new gTLD registries; how community and geography-based gTLDs will be evaluated; and the fast tracking of foreign language domains.

"These are some of the areas that are still in play that ICANN is continuing to work through," Switzer says.

Cute says there are a lot of unanswered questions about how the availability of hundreds of new gTLDs will affect the market dynamics of the domain name industry.

Multinationals are concerned about "if there is going to be a flood of new gTLDs, how does it impact intellectual property rights? How does it impact competition? How does it impact pricing?" Cute notes. "If there's a large influx, how is it going to impact the market?"

Companies say they don't want to spend a great deal of money on defensive domain name registrations to protect their brand names in every new domain. Instead, they'd like to see a list of protected trademarks that can't be sold to anyone but the owner.

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