Internet names poised to expand, as concerns linger

Articles
June 19, 2009

Internet names poised to expand, as concerns linger

Unlike the early days of the Internet, when brand manufacturers and retailers sometimes had to pay cyber-squatters handsomely for rights to the most desirable dot com names, this next round of name availability could well be different—though not necessarily problem-free. The liberalization of the Internet, proposed for 2010, will involve name extensions (beyond .com, .net and .biz, for example) that would open up the Internet space, and could potentially give brands the unprecedented ability to create many new combinations involving their names. New structures for domain names could include geographical names (.nyc or .paris, for instance), themed names (.freedom, for example) or company names (.cheerios or .coke). Theoretically, food makers could create a series of websites reflecting themes of their brands—perhaps quenching.pepsi or tasty.coke or wholesome.kashi if so inclined. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is going through a rigorous process of international meetings and comment periods to address key concerns such as trademark protection, security and stability, malicious behavior, and demand and economic analysis as part of this massive undertaking. Members of the Internet community are about to descend on Sydney, Australia, for next week’s meeting.

Unlike the early days of the Internet, when brand manufacturers and retailers sometimes had to pay cyber-squatters handsomely for rights to the most desirable dot com names, this next round of name availability could well be different—though not necessarily problem-free.

The liberalization of the Internet, proposed for 2010, will involve name extensions (beyond .com, .net and .biz, for example) that would open up the Internet space, and could potentially give brands the unprecedented ability to create many new combinations involving their names.  New structures for domain names could include geographical names (.nyc or .paris, for instance), themed names (.freedom, for example) or company names (.cheerios or .coke).

Theoretically, food makers could create a series of websites reflecting themes of their brands—perhaps quenching.pepsi or tasty.coke or wholesome.kashi if so inclined.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is going through a rigorous process of international meetings and comment periods to address key concerns such as trademark protection, security and stability, malicious behavior, and demand and economic analysis as part of this massive undertaking. Members of the Internet community are about to descend on Sydney, Australia, for next week’s meeting.

How difficult is this, and how contentious might users with plenty at stake become? ICANN blogger Kieren McCarthy wrote recently: “If the community in Sydney still disagrees widely about the best solution to trademark protection, ICANN staff wouldn’t have much to take around the world and so would have to consider cancelling the planned global meetings.”

While this matter of significant branding importance progresses, it is flying under the radar of many. Gandi.net, the largest domain name registrar in France, commissioned The Future Laboratory to survey more than 1,000 respondents (including large retailers) in the United Kingdom.  What they found:
•    Two-thirds of businesses don’t realize domain extensions are being liberalized next year.  Those that do, such as Deloitte, are excited about opportunities in global branding. Companies are concerned that brand protection mechanisms be in place at the new registries.
•    Many consumers are confused about liberalization means and are concerned by the rise of squatting, phishing and advertising clogging up the domain space.
•    65% of consumers surveyed felt that domain name expansion would lead to large numbers of pointless or misleading domains.

SupermarketGuru.com urges brand marketers to retailers to get involved in this process quickly, in order to mine the new branding possibilities and ensure that they protect their hard-earned equity.  The reported application fee of $185,000 to ICANN in Q1 2010 seems steep for smaller companies, and a relative breeze for larger ones. For either, it could be an investment that pays its way.