Daily Archives: April 22, 2009

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Dot Whatever – the big plan for domain names

There’s a big plan waiting in the wings that is set to totally transform the market for domain names.

At the moment, there are a fixed number of domain extensions. (By domain extensions, we mean the bit after the ‘dot’ in the domain name). The most popular domain extension is .com, but other big global domain extensions include .net, .org, .info and .biz. Every country of course has its own domain extension. In the UK its .uk, for France its .fr and in Germany its .de

New plans drawn up by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that overseas the domain name system, will allow the creation of domain names with any number of possible suffixes.

Here in the UK, popular suggestions for new domain extensions include .london or .shopping.

However, any company wanting to set up a domain extension is certainly not going to find it cheap. Icann plan to charge anywhere up to $500,000 per new domain extension, and there will also be a $60,000 annual fee. Any company investing in the set up of a new domain extension would of course need to recoup the cost by selling as many domain names with that extension as possible.

Icann thinks that the new domain extensions are a huge marketing opportunity for  brands. “Whatever is open to the imagination can be applied for. It could translate into one of the largest marketing and branding opportunities in history.” suggested VP of corporate affairs for Icann, Paul Lewis.

One thing that’s clear, however, is that this a potential Cybersquatting nightmare for many companies. We wrote a recent post about cybersquatting, which includes the registering of domain names that derive their value from someone else’s brand. If companies have to register their domain name in lots of new domain extensions, its going to be both costly and complex.

Lets say you’re organising the domain names for a a company called ‘Dave’s Tiling Ltd’. To stop anyone else cybersquatting on your name, you might already have felt the need to register the following domains:

davetiling.com
davetiling.co.uk
davestiling.com
davestiling.co.uk
dave-tiling.com
dave-tiling.co.uk
davetilinguk.com

and so on.

If you include the popular domain extensions (.com, .co.uk, .org, .biz, .info) it might already be costing you a couple of hundred pounds each year to keep all your domain names. If there are going to be a whole slew of new domain extension, how much more is that going to be? And when the new registries are getting charged $500,000 just to set up the new domain extensions, they’re not going to be selling them cheaply are they?

And this comes at a time of the increased incidence of cybersquatting. As reported on BrandRepublic, a record number of cybersquatting complaints were filed last year (2,300 in all), according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Big companies such as the BBC, eBay, Coca-Cola and BMW all complained about their brands being registered as domain names by cybersquatters.

In most cases of course , the complaints procedure favour the complainant, but even so there is a considerable time and financial cost for companies to recover these domains.

Wipo for its part has said that the new domain extensions should be “a genuine concern for trademark holders”.

“The creation of an unknowable and potentially vast number of new [domains] raises significant issues for rights holders, as well as internet users generally”, said Francis Curry, Wipo director-general.

Have you had an issue finding or keeping a domain name that’s relevant to your brand? Would you invest in one of the new domain extensions? Would you prefer the domain name system to stick to the domain extensions currently available? Leave us a comment below.

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