When was the last time you accessed a Web site for a business using the “.biz” top-level domain name or visited your local museum Web site using “.museum” or how about accessing the Web site of “professional” using the “.pro” generic top-level domain (gTLD) names? Thought so. Hard to believe yet another gTLD scheme is being proposed. But this one is different.
The newly proposed gTLD names signal a new era and desire to organize the World Wide Web into brands, their groups and communities. Imagine bypassing Google and going straight into a domain structure like “.soda” and moving through all your favorite soda brands or cutting to the chase and going straight to “.coke” and then jumping through the myriad of Coke brands. In short, the idea brings to mind that of digital cloud computing, where content and experiences are organized in a more meaningful way and are built from an infinite amount of unrelated networks and technologies brought together into one seamless user experience.
If this will happen is anyone’s guess. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) http://www.icann.org/ is currently working through the trade and legal implications. The most recent step was that the Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT), sanctioned by ICANN, provided the first draft of their trademark protection proposal. At worst, the process to secure and purchase a gTLD could run upwards of $500,000 to $1 million (USD) beyond the $185,000 registration fee, if you consider a large corporation’s time and cost for legal work, trademark reviews and the annual $75,000 fee. And even with these costs, there isn’t any easy way to prevent others from using the gTLD in their URL.
Global brands should continue to monitor the changes in ICANN drafts and keep an eye on government intervention. These new gTLDs will be extremely expensive, might not be embraced by Web audiences and could open up a real can of worms around trademark and squatting rights. These proposed changes signal the eventual need to reorganize the World Wide Web beyond search algorithms. In theory, this gTLD proposal could be more than just another meaningless and unused gTLD scheme. However, for now, it would seem what ICANN is proposing is not suitable for most brands and should not be rolled out as currently envisioned.
Mike Tittel, Senior Vice President and Global Practice Leader – Digital, at b2b agency, gyro