ICANN goes ahead -- and the world will never be the same again

All this talk of domains
can make a Kat go dotty ..
With a somewhat leaden heart, this Kat has been reading the news, courtesy of Guardian Online, that internet naming board ICANN has approved the long-expected vast expansion of domain suffixes to the existing 22 international global top level domains (gTLDs).  According to the article,
"Twenty-six years after .com was first unveiled to the world, officials have swept away tight regulations governing website naming, opening up a whole world of personalised web address suffixes. ...

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of Icann's board of directors, said: "Today's decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration [this Kat wonders what Mr Thrush's definitions of creativity and inspiration look like]. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free."

Analysts say they expect 500 to 1,000 domain suffixes, mostly for companies and products looking to stamp their mark on web addresses, but also for cities and generic names such as .bank or .hotel. Websites can now be categorised by subjects such as industry, geography and ethnicity – as well as using Arabic, Chinese and other scripts [this should be fun, says Merpel, who wonders how quickly Western Kats will learn to identify the main ones, for good or ill].  ...it will also now be possible to have website names entirely in Mandarin or Cyrillic or any other script, which will ease the problem of reading and writing addresses for the majority of people who do not use the Roman alphabet.
The growth will also come as the internet shifts to the next-generation IPv6 addressing system for its basic systems, which enables far more devices to be attached to the internet [The IPKat has already managed to attach his fridge and his toaster, but he's struggling to get his vacuum cleaner into the USB port].

ICANN approved the move after six years of negotiations, in which concerns were repeatedly expressed that the enormous expansion of suffixes could lead to extra costs for businesses of registering a site with their trademark as the number of suffixes explodes.During the 1990s there were hundreds of cases of "domain squatting" in which people would register sites that used companies' trademarked names, effectively holding them to ransom. Expanding the number of domains could make that far worse.[Only during the 1990s? And only 'hundreds'?]

But it would also ease the pressure on the ".com" domain, created 26 years ago. In May 2009 a study found that 74% of websites were in the .com domain space. ...

... [O]thers said that the promise of space could be a double-edged sword. "If you're a company with a lot of money, such as Barclays, then you could buy the '.barclays' suffix and build a little island on the internet, on the basis that you can persuade customers that only legitimate Barclays sites will end with that," said Charlie Abrahams, of the brand protection company MarkMonitor. "If your brand has just three letters, it might be worth it. If you're Tommy Hilfiger, it's probably not, because I can't imagine anyone bothering to type all that at the end of a URL." [The IPKat gave up typing URLs years ago; he clicks them when they're hyperlinks and cuts and pastes them into his browser when they're not]

However, the principal beneficiaries are likely to be the internet registrars who sell the rights to site names. ICANN has set a $185,000 fee per suffix, and applicants have to work their way through a 360-page guidebook to prepare their bids ahead of the first suffix auctions, which start on 12 January 2012 and run for 90 days. ICANN says it will auction suffixes if multiple parties have legitimate claims [Apple? Prudential? Polo? Washington? Birmingham? Madonna? Cambridge? EPO? This one can run and run ...]. However, it expects companies will reach deals to avoid a public auction [No they won't, says Merpel, if the hawk-eyed competition folk at the European Commission have anything to do with it and sniff the comfortable scent of collusion between competitors ...]. ...

The ICANN board approved the move by 13 votes to one with two abstentions in a meeting in Singapore. ... The move could also create enormous confusion for consumers and companies. It greatly expands the risks from "phishing" sites because they could use confusing domain names in language scripts that look similar to existing ones to capture peoples' details. And for companies, the challenge will be to decide whether to register their names in all possible domains, or to create their own suffix, or to limit themselves to a small number of domains."
What do readers think? The IPKat is running a little poll for the next week near the top of his side bar. Be sure to let him -- and Merpel -- know!
ICANN goes ahead -- and the world will never be the same again ICANN goes ahead -- and the world will never be the same again Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, June 20, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. I'm the first to vote and have opted for "who will care in 10 years"; but I could just as well have voted for "it'll be a disaster in the short run", as I think both are likely to be true. The saving grace for most people is likely to be search engines, where one does not even need to know the link, just the subject of interest.

  2. Yes this does appear to be madness - but as Woodward and Bernstein said all those years ago "just foliow the money".

    Of even greater dubity, one industry just wanted .xxx are they now free to specialise further?

    [quote] The IPKat gave up typing URLs years ago; he clicks them when they're hyperlinks and cuts and pastes them into his browser when they're not [/quote]

    While I'm sure you're not an idiot that is a fairly good route to being socially engineered unless you stick to plain text emails and are careful about what sites you visit (there's a thematic dot something joke there but I'm keeping it to myself)

  3. It is difficult to see how this is in the public interest, but it will provide work for corporate lawyers, IP professionals, ICANN arbitrators, etc.

    I suspect that many of the readers of this blog should be in a better state as a result.

    Bags on .patents, .patent., .marks, .trademarks, and .ip

    I will be willing to offer attractive terms to specific IP attorneys wishing to register their domains in my new international global top level domains (gTLDs).

  4. I think the release of gTLD's will make it apparent to many trademark owners that a lot of the money spent on domain names can be spent wiser.
    Wonder if giving the 185.000 USD (+ the expected consultancy fee for filing an application and setting up a new gTLD) to charity wouldn´t give a brand more credit in the eyes of the public?

    Maybe we should do a Facebook group "For all of us who have decided to donate to charity instead of wasting tons of money on yet another TLD" ;-))

  5. I think the restrictions they've put in place should stop much of the spam sites. I also think it would be wise to continue buying the .com sites as it will take awhile for most users to be retrained to type something other than .com. I first read about then vote here: http://blog.thenetimpact.com/2011/06/open-domain-names-require-companies-to-capitalize-protect/

  6. The Kat better watch out for all those phishing attempts with the alternative script capabilities.

    Although... it would be interesting to see that catphish.


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