New Top-Level Domains Create Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, Part 2
In part one of this series, I discussed ICANN’s new top-level domains (TLD) program and how it's a complex issue with great potential gains for those who do it right. As with any big change, we’re seeing a great deal of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Fortunately, some of the common myths are easily clarified. How do these distinct TLD types stand up to concerns about cybersquatting, exclusivity and mass confusion?
Myth No. 1: gTLDs will spark mass cybersquatting. Advocates of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) view a .brand domain as a marketing game changer, but the program has also attracted criticism from advertising associations claiming new gTLDs will unleash mass cybersquatting. Online trust is a huge issue for brand owners, but the argument that new gTLDs will lead to some kind of free-for-all doesn’t make sense. Here’s why:
- New TLDs cost $185,000 just to apply, not $9.99. Completed applications are expected to be 300 pages and require demonstration of the financial and technical ability to run a registry. The average domain speculator has nowhere near the resources necessary to win a new gTLD bid.
- ICANN won’t permit confusingly similar names or typos to be approved. For example, if .hsbc is approved, .hbsc won't be.
- ICANN must approve a change in control of a TLD. Contracts can't be resold the way .com domain names can. Therefore there’s no economic incentive for a squatter to try to win a name in hopes of reselling it later to a large corporation.
- ICANN will require that all awarded new gTLDs provide policies and mechanisms for companies to protect or recover their legal trademarks from cybersquatters within that gTLD.
- A .brand is a simple visual cue to help internet users distinguish between real and fake sites. No equivalent mechanism exists in the current domain name system. In fact, many companies expect .brand ownership could actually lower risk and build trust. For example, only Canon could own .canon. But Canon could offer space to its approved merchants (e.g., nordstrom.canon), helping consumers to be sure they’re purchasing authentic merchandise.
If companies wish to secure their trademarks in the new open generic word TLDs, protection mechanisms will allow trademark owners to do so prior to general availability and to recover names that are infringing their trademark. These mechanisms have been in place with recent gTLD expansions and in some cases have been added to established TLDs, and they've worked well.