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New Internet Names Feared, Loathed By All

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In an unusual alliance, major corporations are walking in lockstep with the federal government and international NGO’s to stop a reviled internet naming scheme set to be unleashed in January. Too bad they’re probably too late.

The scheme in question involves turning the current internet naming system wide-open so that it’s possible to buy websites ending in anything — .disney, .redcross, .stevejobs, etc — and host content on them. ICANN, the body responsible for internet names, says the plan will unleash a flood of new innovation and internet commerce.

The problem is that no one wants or likes the plan. Brand owners are fed up with the digital debris they must manage already (including “.biz“, “.travel” and now “.xxx” sites) and don’t want more. Meanwhile, government agencies and NGO’s fear that more internet names simply mean more fraud and phishing.

The new scheme is particularly vexing to companies because it’s so expensive. Starting January 12, would-be registrants of “.chanel” or “.worldvision” must plunk down $185,000 to register the names or risk someone else grabbing them first.

“Companies are nervous,” said Andrea Calvaruso, a trademark expert with Kelley Drye in New York. She says that she has several big clients who are incredulous and resentful at having to acquire yet more domain names but feel they are over a barrel. The cost of running an entire domain system involves not just registration but legal and IT services, Calvaruso adds. Unless a brand is already an IT firm, she says they will have to pay a specialist firm to help them manage the ten year commitment.

An organization called Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight is pushing back against the initiative and has formed an international alliance of marketers and brands such as Dell, Xerox and Coca-Cola. Its website includes a letter from the lawyers of dozens of quasi-government groups like the WHO and the European Space Agency. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission on Friday issued a press release warning Americans that the new internet names will produce new scams.

So why is the plan going ahead all the same? In a word, money. In a recent report, ICANN revealed that the new plan will produce a windfall that will allow it to double its revenue.

Ordinarily, this sort of agency mission creep would be reigned in by political outrage. But that’s unlikely to occur here because ICANN has no real political master now that it has escaped formal oversight from the US Department of Commerce. The decoupling of ICANN from the US government occurred for the good reason that the internet and its naming system are a global, not American, enterprise. But the result is now that an important agency is accountable to no-one at all.

The only support for the scheme that I have uncovered came in the form of a strange press release chiding the US Senate for examining the scheme (no Senator came out in support). It also provides a link to a consultant and the advice: “The bottom line, the New gTLD expansion will happen and instead of concerning yourself with what you can’t control – you should be focusing on how to prepare for what is to come. ”

Sounds good. I wonder if it’s too late to buy the “.bureaucracy” name.

10 Responses to “New Internet Names Feared, Loathed By All”

  1. The main body of “support” comes from ICANN, ICANN contracted parties and would be contracted ICANN parties. There is overwhelming opposition outside of those circles.  .xxx provides a perfect example. Where else have you seen the religious right, the porn industry, world governments and mainstream business all so united in their opposition to any thing?

    So who did want .xxx? ICANN and ICM who run .xxx (Of course ICANN pretended it didn’t want .xxx and had to grant it on legal grounds – Really if it didn’t want it why didn’t it decide whether to allocate it or not on public interest grounds and simply pay ICM damages if it had messed them around? 
    If ICANN had wanted to be sensible it could have opened a window for categories for where new gTLDs might be actually needed (eg. IDN and communities), but no ICANN led by Peter Dengate Thrush said no we want to open it up to .anything. At the time I couldn’t work out why Peter Dengate Thrush was opposed to even any discussion on targeting new gTLD to where they might be needed.

    Days later after the ICANN Board vote which he led, Peter Dengate Thrush joined a new gTLD company looking to benefit from creating new gTLDs. 

    The whole new gTLD program is riddled with fundamental .ibm no problem but what about .hp – not possible because 2 characters are reserved for countries.brands are a classic example where you can pay ICANN $185,000 + $25,000 p.a. in addition to $10. p.a. for a .com. Now that may help with a short term branding advantage, but it means if a major player moves to the right of the dot in any vertical then all the other companies will also have to move to simply enjoy the same level of implicit DNS branding. Proctor and Gamble have over 80 brands a single company like Proctor and Gamble with over 80 brands will need to spend over $15,000,000 if they wish to apply for all their brands as new gTLDs and pay ICANN a further $2,000,000 every year going forward compared with the existing system cost of $800 p.a

    Medium sized players will have to consider whether it’s worth spending $185,000 + $25,000 per year with ICANN to enjoy the same level of implicit DNS branding and enter ICANN’s .brand super league. For start ups and smaller players the cost of admission to this implicit DNS branding advantage is likely to prove prohibitive.

    The level playing field of the Internet will be destroyed.

  2. “.berlin”

    ok, who gets dibs on .hartford? the ins/financial giant or the city of ct?

    who gets .lexington? the furniture company or the city in ky? the furniture company already owns the .com so shouldn’t they get first shot?

    how about .burlington? the coat company or the city in vt?

    .springfield?  does the city in MA, IL, MO, etc. get preference over rick or buffalo???

    .msg? the folks at The Garden or chinese restaurateurs?

    just a few examples of why this idea is like bailing out banks.

  3. There is a big difference between ‘not convinced that there is broad support’ and ‘Feared, Loathed by All’

    Catchy Headline though. Maybe put that in your resume to Fox News

  4. ok, who gets first dibs on .coke?

    the ancient chinese who made the hot burning coal known as such, the cartels in colombia, or the 6 pack bottlers who were last on the scene?

  5. ‘I’ve talked to numerous lawyers and business owners and they all hate it.’That’s your research?I guess you didn’t read about, or talk to the representatives of New York, Berlin, London, or any of the million signed supporters of .MUSIC? Did you consult with governments, companies and organizations in Dubai, Russia, Japan, and Saudi Arabia who are planning TLDs in their native languages? There are many supporters of New gTLDs, including governments, communities, and charitable organizations.Ten minutes of diligent research online into an alternative viewpoint would have revealed this.The Title of this article is FALSE, misleading and sensationalist.The paragraph describing the risks of cybersquatting risks at the top level simply echoes the misleading, and incorrect FUD that has been tossed about by CRIDO and the ANA over the past couple months.’I’m a lawyer with a background in IP’Entirely consistent with the viewpoint of this article

    • Jeff Roberts

      Tom G, I take your point to a degree that there are some supporters for the new gTLDs. And I have read ICANN’s own reports describing the purported benefits. But I’m still not convinced that there is broad support for this measure or that is being unrolled in a measured, responsible fashion. Instead, ICANN keep referring to it in terms like “land rush”  Why, the rush? I am unclear why ICANN isn’t doing this in an incremental fashion — providing “.music”, “.berlin”, native language gTLDs where (and if) there is incontrovertible demand and putting a cap on the rest.

      I simply can’t accept your somewhat conspiratorial argument that I’m blinkered as a result of being tainted by IP lawyers. Survey the academic blogs and you’ll find little support there as well. Groups like UNESCO, the World Bank and the International Labour Organziation oppose it as well.

      In any case, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’ll see how this turns out in January.

  6. ICANN is ONLY doing this because there is a NEW DNS in the works that will allow 4096 Top Level Domains.
    ICANN is attempting to derail that effort. That effort can not be stopped. ICANN thinks they control the DNS. They have lost market share since 1998.

  7. Jeff Roberts

    Tom G, thanks for your comment but I stand by position that this initiative has very little popular support. I’ve talked to numerous lawyers and business owners and they all hate it.

    I don’t think the opposition stems from the “IP lobby”, the 1% or any other sinister cabal. If this is the case, why is the FTC and groups like the World Health Organization opposing it?

    And, for what it’s worth, I’m a lawyer with a background in IP who is a frequent critic of companies that misuse intellectual property.

    Finally, I’ve spoken with ICANN in the past about this issue and came away unconvinced that it’s necessary or desired.

    I’m not under the sway of anyone. I just agree that it’s a bad idea.

  8. guess it’s up to me to disagree with “tom” above-

    if icann wants to “double its revenue”, simply boost the per domain fee from (the ridiculously low) .18 per domain they currently have to .36.

    heck, .40 would boost their revenue by nearly 125%.

    prollum solved!

    if memory serves, icann tried this scheme several years ago but the ransom was ~80k back then. feel free to correct me if i’m wrong.

  9. It’s comforting to know that yes, it is too late for uninformed, biased individuals and groups to stop this program with incorrect and misleading information.

    It would be virtually impossible, very expensive and ridiculously stupid for anyone but Chanel to apply and be awarded the .chanel top level domain. A very basic understanding of the rules is all you need to know this.

    There are hundreds of groups, cities, governments, brands, cultures, communities that want to carve a unique space on the web. New York City, Paris, Rome, Berlin, .ECO and more.

    New domains will allow the MAJORITY of internet users who do NOT speak English to navigate the web in their language without switching between scripts. New Top Level Domains are planned for Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and more.

    The vast majority of opposition comes from the IP lobby – large corporations who fear change and losing some of their wealthiest 1% competitive advantage. 

    Apparently your research of this was derived almost exclusively from these sources.