News: New Top Level Web Domains

Oklahoma Land Run via wikipedia commons, posted by Roygene, Public DomainICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the body overseeing the naming of web addresses, recently released a huge list of proposed new domain names in the latest round of liberalisation of the domain name market, increasing the number of “top level” domains from the current 22 to 1,000 domains starting in early 2013.

Domain names ending in everything from .blog, .website, .basketball to .moi will soon be available for use.

It has taken considerable planning to and preparation to get new domain extensions to market (for that’s what it is, a market), from technical research to managing registrations to the marketing launch so potential buyers know about the new domains.

The process for creating a new domain extension varies:

  • Country code domains, like .uk (the United Kingdom), .fr (France) or .tv (Tuvalu – yes, Tuvalu owns .tv), are administered by that country’s government, which in practice is handed off to a government appointed organisation to run; in the UK, that organisation is Nominet.
  • Generic domain name extensions, such as .info, .xxx or .org, are handled by ICANN itself, the organisation with overall control of the domain name system.
  • With this vast list of new domains, ICANN approves the new extensions and assigns them to organisations which have applied to handle the registration and administration.

The organisations responsible for their assigned domains must set-up robust registration systems for purchase, expiry, renewals and proper redirection to ensure that everything works properly.

New domain launches will all follow a three-step process, designed to ensure fair assignment of domains to users:

  1. Sunrise. Stage one allows trademark holders a chance to register their domain names first, in order to protect their branding early, for example .infiniti is a Nissan trademark, so Nissan would have an interest in taking various domains having that extension. The Sunrise period allows trademark holders potentially to block registration of domains containing their trademark. This is a measure to block so-called cyber-squatters.
  2. Land-rush. This is the open stage in which anyone can apply to register for a domain name. The process may vary for some domains, but at the end of the land-rush period, domain names are allocated either to the sole applicant or to the highest bidder at auction. Land-rush enables applicants to bid more to secure particularly attractive domains. Money talks.
  3. General Availability. Where new domains become available on an ongoing basis, anyone can take their pick of remaining domains on a first-come-first-served basis. You can register any available domain there and then, just like existing domains.

Market Forces
It’s a commercial market, so if you want a particular new domain name, Landrush is your best chance to secure the name; get in there early when it’s released – especially if you think it will be in demand, although you may have to pay more than at general availability.

There will be a thriving secondary domain name market, where individuals and businesses buy and sell domain names, as now.

I Can, You Can’t
ICANN is itself a newly independent organisation, a non-profit corporation that happens to have raised just over $357 million, amidst considerable criticism of the new process for allocation of domains to new registrars and administrators. Supporters of the change in governance point out that it was time for the U.S. government to step back from its leading role in managing what is, in essence, a global organization, others accuse it of improperly regulating the Internet address book in a bonanza of new domains under a commercial free-for-all.

The use of the term Land-rush in itself has all the wrong connotations from Western frontier movies from D W Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation to Far and Away.

The process has been derided as an open call to price-gougers and con artists, there are allegations of commercial bias and partizan assignment. AJS

The ICANN Applicant Guidebook is available on the website.

Related: How-to: Spot domain spoofing

Image credit: Oklahoma Land Run uploaded by Roygene, Public Domain by US Government, commentary at History of Oklahoma.

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