The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set to change up the Internet address system once again. While Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) were relatively fixed in the past, there are those that are pushing to get the green light for new domains. So far, a good deal of domain marketing has focused on domain hacks. New rules would allow big brands or those with deep pockets to own domains ending in virtually anything they want, like .nyc, .place, or .whatever.
For instance, people have long misused geographical country domains like .WS. While many people use it as a generic domain that stands in for the words “web site,” .WS actually means Western Samoa. When two-letter country codes were standardized back in the 1970s, Western Samoa was the name of the country that is now referred to as the Independent State of Samoa. As you might imagine, there really aren’t that many websites registered in Samoa. Therefore, there have long been plenty of .WS domains to go around.
One of the major issues which arose out of this discussion involves proposals for domain names that are close to registered brand trademarks. Not all trademark holders will be able to propose their own domains, and many of them lack the financial resources to do so. Trademark laws are reliant on individual national protection. Therefore, different companies could have similar trademarks in different nations. ICANN might have to field a considerable number of objections for new top-level domains based on these problems alone. However, 839 businesses have already applied for gTLDs that reference the name of their own brand names.
An example of a difficult domain scenario would be a party interested in registering .mart for instance. Now that may appear fine on the surface as “Mart” is a generic term, but at the point the owner decides to activate a subdomain like k.mart or wal.mart, things can get a uncomfortable rather quickly. That’s a big problem.
Of course, some of the proposed gTLDs are truly generic. Domains like .radio, .movie, .app and .bank wouldn’t necessarily have any particular trademark associated with them. Critics could again point out the issue of domain hacks, however. Many websites that would be interested in registering a .radio domain in the future might have already signed up for a .FM or .AM domain. These domains technically belong to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Armenia respectively. However, they’re often used for radio stations.
Some have noticed that the ICANN website for proposing new domains has been somewhat less than reliable. Others note that the costs of applying for a domain are quite high, about $180,000.00. However, proponents say that simple web addresses have already been gobbled up. Generic domains like .com and .net have been around for years and for that matter, are technically abused as it is. Originally, .com was reserved for commercial websites. The .net gTLD was reserved for websites that directly dealt with networking technology.
However, both of these are catchalls for numerous types of websites. There are numerous sponsored top-level domains that are maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). While people aren’t currently claiming these are in any way competing with ICAAN’s proposal, they do represent an existing framework for expanding domains. For now, though, ICAAN seems to be accepting applicants that wish to request their own personal domain. The limited objection filing period seems to be extended until around November 2012. What objections will be brought up, if any, remain to be seen.