Monday, June 27, 2011

ICANN - Singapore & New Domain Names

The ICANN meeting had ended in Singapore last week, and the decisions made in this little island nation would have great impact on our global village.

The biggest impact is the introduction of new domain names, both the internationalised versions and more importantly the new gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains). Currently there are about 22 gTLDs, which include .com, .net, .org, .gov etc. Internet users are well used to such gTLDs in additional to country specific TLDs, e.g. .sg, .uk and so on.

The introduction of new gTLDs will have great consequences for Internet users. Primarily the concerns will be:

Confusion & Security Issues
Internet users will need to be accustomed with the new gTLDs when websites offer their services under the new gTLDs. There will be confusion. For example, should Yahoo obtain their own .yahoo domain, should an Yahoo email user in Singapore give his email as (which is the current situation) or xxx@yahoo or would there be new variants e.g. These different variants will create possibilities for phishing scams if the websites do not manage their consumer education properly.

Intellectual Property - Trademark & such
Beyond security, there will be trademark issues between websites with confusingly similar names. While this issue exists currently, the magnitude is amplified when companies in different countries have to 'fight' for their trademark in the new gTLDs arena. These companies may be contented with their current country specific domain names, but they will have issues when the gTLDs are introduced. Don't believe me? Try typing in,,, and you will go to websites of different companies. If they are all fighting for the .flower gTLDs, who should ICANN give this domain to? 

Thus, would ICANN be the WIPO equivalent for Internet domain names, i.e. setting trademark equivalent framework for domain names? Interesting...

Costs for the new gTLDs
Of course, the issues above will not be apparent for the next couple of years. The reason is simple - cost. ICANN has set very high entry barrier for anyone to apply for the new gTLDs. The first step for ICANN to evaluate the application of gTLDs will be a whopping USD$185,000. Anyone who want their own new gTLDs will of course have to spend more than that amount overall. Thus I believe only limited number of companies will embark on this new route within the next few years. By 'limited' on a global basis, perhaps we are looking at a few hundreds in year 1.

Well, what will the new domain names be? For a start I believe Google, Yahoo, Apple, Nokia, IBM and other companies in the technology space will clamour for the new bragging rights. We will all know by 2012, when ICANN opens the application period (Jan to Apr 2012) for the new gTLDs.

No comments: