Part I provided an introduction to ICANN, its many acronyms and how the system came to be. This section focuses on what this means for consumers.
ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) conducted trials in the early 2000s and introduced a policy development process in 2005 based on the introduction of new gTLDs. The new gTLD release was approved in June 2011 and has now reached the implementation stage. Sixty one new gTLDs have been released in the first 5 weeks of 2014 with many more expected in the coming months. (http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings)
The goals of the program include “enhancing competition and consumer choice, and enabling the benefits of innovation via the introduction of new gTLDs.” (http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program). The organization considered intellectual property concerns, consumer protection, DNS stability, and several other factors when deciding to implement this program. They started accepting applications in January 2012 and 1,930 were received. (http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/statistics)
Applying to be a registrar for one of these gTLDs requires an application fee of $185,000 and ICANN warns that companies should anticipate additional operating costs.
What will the new gTLDs look like and how does this affect the average consumer and/or company? Donuts and GoDaddy are registrars that are heavily involved in the new gTLDs and have filed a large number of applications. They will be controlling domains such as .COMPUTER, .MEDIA, .MENU and .UNO.
This system is meant to ease the burden on consumers searching out businesses. If a consumer is interested in researching places to visit during a trip, he can simply go to .MUSEUM or .TRAVEL instead of performing a more generic search. Individuals looking for food options can go directly to .MENU. Those in need of housing can use .APARTMENTS or .RENTALS.
The system is intended to benefit businesses as well. Previously, businesses may have had a hard time procuring a domain and web address that adequately described their business. Now they will have the ability to be part of a domain that specifically serves a particular industry. For example, snow boarding business called Big Air may not have been able to obtain the BIGAIR.COM domain because it was already in use by another company, like a fan retailer or water ski seller. Big Air may be forced to choose a domain name that could confuse its customers or make it more difficult for them to locate the proper company. Now, Big Air would have the option of locating itself on a domain that is more specific, like .SNOW.
In the past, .COM domains were once thought of as the one and only option (or one of the only, but now they will just be “one store in the whole shopping mall.”
In Part III we will provide a discussion of the effect of gTLDs on trademark owners.
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