New gTLDs expected by year end, including .shop

Takeaway: The ICANN San Francisco meeting approaches next week with the promise of new gTLDs (generic top level domains) by the end of the year.

The ICANN San Francisco meeting (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) approaches next week with the promise of new gTLDs (generic top level domains) by the end of the year, which means that .shop could finally get its delegation under Commercial Connect LLC based in Louisville, KY.

Jeffrey Smith, founder of Commercial Connect, has spent most of this past decade making ready the path for registrars regarding this gTLD and applied in the past for the delegation. In 2000, while Commercial Connect’s application was generally well received, ICANN decided to prioritize other TLDs (such as .biz and .info) at that time. Unfortunately, to date, ICANN has not seen fit to take the step and make it possible for internet users to purchase .shop at all under Commercial Connect through registrars or any entity’s guidance.

There is some interest at this time from GMO Registry (Japan) now as well, although the candidate with the most invested and prior steps toward delegation is Commercial Connect. What’s already out there? Twenty generic top level domains (gTLD) and 250 country code top level domains (ccTLD). Primary are .com or .biz gTLDs. Extensions like .de (Germany) or .cn (China) are ccTLDs. According to a recent VeriSign report, the total number of domain names registered worldwide has recently crossed the 200 million mark.

For webmasters, the headaches may either just be beginning or just ending, based on your perspective. Generally, when a new gTLD comes out, all corporations with a vested interest in keeping their own name online rush to register, creating wealth opportunities.

But, if it was that easy everyone would apply for a domain. Instead ICANN spends time evaluating who is the best candidate and has developed its own soon-to-be-approved guidebook, Version 4. Unfortunately rumors have it that they may wait for release and then approval until after the ICANN meeting into late April this year.

The background:

  • Each top level domain (TLD) is a monopoly, i.e., only the registry can authorize the sale of domains;
  • Every domain is subject to a yearly registry fee (most range from $5 to $25); and
  • Retail sellers (registrars) contract with the registry to sell domains and are the main outlets for most TLDs.

Why does the average IT administrator care? Well, the .com opportunities for new websites is dwindling based on existing registrations, and not all extensions are good for everything you need. Identity online for companies is increasingly more important as brand loyalty continues to wane.

Smith is counting on the ecommerce world’s interest in .shop and believes that this will be a viable gTLD this year. As of the June 2010 Brussels ICANN Meeting, Commercial Connect is the only remaining applicant that completed the application process and is still awaiting final approval for its proposed TLD. Commercial Connect was present at the  December 5-10, 2010, Cartagena ICANN meeting, and Smith has participated  in 20+ ICANN meetings spanning from 1998 to the present day. Commercial Connect has a remarkable amount of support both from ecommerce companies worldwide and related U.S. individuals of influence in the development of ICANN supporting its efforts. The company also sponsored an Internet Retail Convention and Expo conference in 2010.

ICANN has its hands full with the implications of issuing new gTLDs as is seen with the brouhaha being generated by (a)  .jobs, and (b) also based on domain kiting issue, which locks up literally millions of domain names annually, thus reducing the amount of current domain names that are available.

ICANN contends the .jobs registry, Employ Media, is failing “to operate and manage the .JOBS TLD in a manner consistent with the spirit and intention of the .JOBS registry and .JOBS Charter,” according to a recent demand letter sent by ICANN. This is because it is largely operating as a monopoly to compete with other internet job boards, although, in theory, anyone joining SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) is supposed to be able to register a .jobs extension, according to ICANN.

In the letter sent Feb. 28, Employ Media has 30 days to fix its violations or risk having the .jobs domain completely shut down.

On the line with all proposed gTLDs is the millions that can be made and the ability to have domain names that are unique and easily found. Those that have already announced their intention to apply is a relatively short list, because of the criteria and expected guidelines.

Commercial Connect has the ability to be up and running, and drawing on CORE for its technical operations is an important advantage, of which Jeffrey Smith of Commercial Connect LLC is a founding member. The Internet Council of Registrars (CORE) was established in 1997 and enjoys considerable status within the domain name industry.

The organization is headquartered in Switzerland, with members in 20 countries worldwide. It provides services to its member registrars and operates the registries for two TLDs.

“We anticipate that this is the year, ICANN sees a value in this .shop domain, because of all the increasing activity surrounding online shopping and ecommerce activities,” Smith said recently.

How quickly ICANN will move on gTLDs is still up in the air, but the desire to move on the wave of internet activity in registrations is percolating.