Is the ICANN delegation process offering stability or just more questions?

Takeaway: With applications for top-level domains expected to soar with ICANN’s application process starting this week, you wonder if this is the Wild West of the Internet or just another route to board the congested subway system for the next stop dropoff?

The ICANN application opens in less than 90 days, and new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are expected to be registered at a rate of 400+ applications with approximately 146+ new generic top-level domains anticipated, based on industry sources. Some estimates go as high as 300+ domains. Currently there is a maximum limit of 1,000 new gTLDs that can be delegated per year. Is this the Wild West of the Internet and a way to strike gold or just another route to board the congested subway system for the next stop dropoff?

There is still strong growth online in naming sequences related to domains. Verisign reports that the Internet grew by more than 5 million domain names in the second quarter of 2011, bringing the total number of registered domain names to more than 215 million worldwide across all domains. Registrations have grown by more than 16.9 million, or 8.6 percent, since the second quarter of 2010.

And, although many large corporations hate to admit it, there will mostly likely be a need to protect corporate trademarks through registration on new gTLDs, providing a built-in, pent-up demand for business-centric ones.

The application process under the new guidebook for new gTLDs opens on January 12, 2012, and closes on April 12. In May 2012, ICANN will publish the list of all domain names for which applications are received.

First let’s discuss the positives of such a momentous event. There is an anticipation that this will allow for the security and stabilization of the Internet through expansion and good stewardship via ICANN and new registries that will form. Innovation and consumer choice are also cited as important reasons for this delegation process.

For certain countries, there will be opportunities not seen before, such as applying for new generic top-level domains in internationalized domain scripts.                                     -more-

According to Rod Beckstrom, CEO and President of ICANN, who addressed recently the Global Leaders Summit in Dubai at Gitex, “This means you could apply for terms in Arabic — not only a company name or brand or a city name, but any other word or generic term.”

Beckstrom also stated what is little known — organizations running one of the new domains will not be required to sell Internet domain names publicly. This could be useful to large trade organizations or retailers, looking to brand direct with their new gTLD.

However, this is an expensive proposition, since this is anticipated to be an initial half-a-million-dollar investment to even get to the starting gate with fees and application in hand.

Still, as pointed out by Blogger Wil Tan, CTO of Cloud Registry, “Every new gTLD is effectively a startup, and Steve Job’s message couldn’t be more apt: ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish.’”

According to one Registrar (United Domains ) that has pre-registrations on the new TLD’s listed for review, the following statistics are known. Keep in mind that the trademark holders will not pre-register. This list does show .shop as a premier choice — almost 5 times more than the 10 most requested TLD, just behind .web.

TOP 10 New TLDs

(number of domain pre-registrations)

  1. .web 72,075
  2. .shop 44,191
  3. .site 28,390
  4. .hotel 16,328
  5. .nyc 11,962
  6. .berlin 10,308
  7. .film 10,130
  8. .music 10,130
  9. .eco 9,937
  10. .bank 8,737

Commercial Connect, LLC, based in Louisville, Kentucky, has maintained the need for .shop and applied for delegation for more than a decade. It will apply again, now as the only remaining TLD applicant that has successfully completed the entire application process and is still yet to be delegated.

“There’s a lot of fraud in online shopping circles and we are hoping to help unite and make ecommerce more secure, building consumer confidence in trusted sites for online users with .shop,” he said.

“It will make ecommerce online more intuitive for all users. If you are looking to make a purchase, you go straight to the .shop extension for your favorite retailer,” he added.

“We (Commercial Connect and its sister IT companies) have believed since the mid-1990s that this was an important gTLD, and we have worked extensively with large and small retailers and the financial community, and it was a natural evolution to sponsor this on the internet,” Smith indicated.

Other protectionist factors have motivated celebrities and trade associations to take a stand for several gTLDs in the top 10 list. .Eco has received much media attention, in part because of the celebrity names in the game. Mid-October, CircleID reported that Al Gore had dropped his bid to win control of .eco, however the company that Gore’s Climate Reality Group was aligned with will continue against the Canadian company, Big Room, backed by Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross.

The American Bankers Association finally came out with its commitment to apply for .bank as a gTLD brand for exclusive use for all banks worldwide this fall.

And, so the march to delegation rages on. More discussion and alliances are expected to be revealed at Dakar, Senegal’s ICANN meeting, on October 23-28. There will mostly likely be a need to protect corporate trademarks through registration on new gTLDs, providing a built-in, pent-up demand for business-centric ones.