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Corporate Domain Registration Practices in Light of New gTLDs

Elisa Cooper

For years, corporate domain name administrators have scoffed at every new second-level and third-level country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) liberalization, and rightly so. Until recently, most had continued the practice of registering significant numbers of variations, misspellings and typo-squats.

While I have never encouraged the practice of registering every variation in every geography, as this becomes prohibitively expensive over time — most corporate portfolios have grown to the point where 90+ percent consist of defensive domain name registrations.

With what seems to be the imminent launch of hundreds of new TLDs as a result of ICANN's new initiative, companies appear to be saying enough is enough, and meaning it.

We've already seen significantly less uptake with each new round of TLDs and the numbers speak for themselves:

  • .INFO (introduced in 2001) 5,100,000 registrations
  • .BIZ (introduced in 2001) 2,000,000 registrations
  • .MOBI (introduced in 2005) 840,000 registrations
  • .ASIA (introduced in 2006) 210,000 registrations
  • .TEL (introduced in 2009) 200,000 registrations

What can we expect with the launch of hundreds of new TLDs?

While I can only speculate about the consumer market and their adoption of these new registries, there has been a growing trend among corporate domain name managers to only register exact matches in countries where business is conducted. Obviously this approach can leave corporations wide-open to squatters and speculators which is why so many companies are starting to ask themselves how they will manage the influx of anticipated abuse.

ICANN's Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) has outlined a number of mechanisms to protect rights holders, and I am hopeful that they will be adopted.

But even with the protections provided by the IRT and the automated solutions that exist for identifying domain name abuse, with the launch of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), domain name administrators will certainly be asked to do more with less.

More registrations, more management, more detection and more remediation of abuse will mean more work and greater expenses for corporations.

So how can this burden be alleviated?

The first step is to review existing registration policies and procedures in advance of the launch of new gTLDs, so that approaches for domain name registration and brand protection are agreed upon and understood by all stakeholders.

The second step is to actually implement any revisions to these policies and procedures in light of the new gTLDs, and to develop feedback mechanisms to evaluate whether the approach is meeting the corporation's online objectives. Companies should be willing to readjust their approaches as needed.

While this all sounds straightforward and simple, actually taking on this type of project can be an ordeal — as there are often many competing interests, budget constraints and differing opinions. However, if companies can begin thinking about and addressing domain polices, procedures and protection now, the anticipated launch of new TLDs should be less complicated.

By Elisa Cooper, SVP Marketing and Policy at Brandsight, Inc.
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You left out that new TLDs cause cancer in orphans... Jothan Frakes  –  Aug 21, 2009 12:34 PM PDT

Elisa, I respect that you have a product/service to sell and an audience to pander to but this is yet again skewed statistics being done to prejudice the reader. 

Info and Biz are generic TLDs, the others are sponsored.  Being a sponsored TLD means that there are additional qualifications, resulting in the narrowing of possible applicants.  This is by design. 

Yes, lower numbers do happen in sponsored TLDs.  Conveniently, the clarification that the later domains are sponsored is absent in this article, leading the reader to accelerate to the desired outcome - to see a decline in registrations.

There are also other factors like how well executed these different initiatives have been or even the attraction of a given string or its purpose to a potential registrant.

Well played but I have to call you on it, because the audience that reads these are not necessarily in the know on these things to where they'd see through it.

Most people who have aspirations to apply on behalf of their communities agree, in principal, with many of the points in the IRT, or have planned sterner brand protection built in so that the rights of others are respected.

As evidenced with Facebook's recent 'custom names' launch, 73MM of their 200MM socially hosted users chose to obtain a 'custom name' for their Facebook account within a 45 day period.  That's 90% of .COM's registrations. 

Granted, these were free, but this is an example of a thriving internet company that is embracing the internet users who would absolutely benefit from new TLDs.  There are communities that would benefit from new TLDs of any size.

Brands, not just Facebook or Twitter with their popularity, but F500 brands that have large offline businesses, can be embracing the new TLDs and be thriving from it.

To hold them back from this, to deny them this, so that brands can glacially adapt, that's a terrible shame.  A larger shame is perpetuating Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Elisa, I respect that you have a Paul Tattersfield  –  Aug 23, 2009 12:53 PM PDT

Elisa, I respect that you have a product/service to sell and an audience to pander to but this is yet again skewed statistics being done to prejudice the reader. 

Info and Biz are generic TLDs, the others are sponsored.  Being a sponsored TLD means that there are additional qualifications, resulting in the narrowing of possible applicants.  This is by design. 

Yes, lower numbers do happen in sponsored TLDs.  Conveniently, the clarification that the later domains are sponsored is absent in this article, leading the reader to accelerate to the desired outcome - to see a decline in registrations.

To be fair to Elisa .asia and .mobi don't exactly turn [any] would be registrants away do they? And has the [sole?] development stipulation in .mobi ever actually be enforced? .tel is different by design. So being sponsored or not is really irrelevant for the TLDs Elisa used as an exmaple.

Perhaps ICANN could consider adding a new class of registration? A "Defensive registration" where the domain name would not resolve and the registry proportion of the fee would be allocated to a central ICANN fund? That way there would be an incentive for the new gTLDs to create a more vibrant DNS and the Corporations would not feel they were being obligated to fund new gTLDs set up primarily to benefit from speculators and defensive registrations.

In response to Jothan's comments Elisa Cooper  –  Aug 21, 2009 4:57 PM PDT

Jothan - if I were writing this article to sell more products or services, I would clearly be advising corporations to register more domains, in more extensions, and to especially register in all of the new gTLDs, when they become available.

I realize that you and your business are actively promoting new gTLDs - and that what I am saying, likely concerns you.

But the facts are the facts.

Those facts don't mean that, in some cases, new gTLDs can’t provide great branding opportunities for some corporations. In fact, we are providing an extensive suite of services around these new gTLDs to support our Fortune 1000 client base.

But the bottom line is that, companies are sick and tired of being forced into registering defensively when they are already successfully operating their core sites.

if I were writing this article to Alex Tajirian  –  Aug 22, 2009 8:17 AM PDT

if I were writing this article to sell more products or services, I would clearly be advising corporations to register more domains, in more extensions, and to especially register in all of the new gTLDs, when they become available.

That’s one argument but it may be flawed. You point out that “companies are sick and tired of being forced into registering defensively.” Thus, you may be able to attract more customers by recommending selective registrations, which can yield higher total profit than “advising corporations to register more domains.”

we are providing an extensive suite of services around these new gTLDs to support our Fortune 1000 client base.

I look forward to learning more about your new gTLD products, which I hope are based on robust methodology to recommend value-adding registrations and propose a sound organizational structure to implimient the two steps outlined in your post.

sick and tired of being forced into registering defensively

Do you classify typo registrations as defensive?

Facts without context are not necessarily facts Jothan Frakes  –  Aug 24, 2009 6:51 AM PDT

But the facts are the facts.

Blurring the context on those facts to prejudice an outcome about those facts distorts the merits of the statement.

Nobody is "forced" to register any names Daniel R. Tobias  –  Aug 22, 2009 7:12 AM PDT

Nobody is "forced" to register any names "defensively", and it would be better for everybody if they didn't.  The Caterpillar construction equipment company has insisted on grabbing the name "cat" in just about every TLD; why not leave it so somebody making a site dedicated to felines has a chance at it?  (What do they think of the .cat TLD?) If domains are used in their logically structured way as originally intended, no entity needs more than one of them; I haven't registered any new domains personally since 2003, and have used logical subdomains of dan.info for all personal sites I've started since then.

Trademark holders have rights - yes.But you Michele Neylon  –  Aug 28, 2009 7:09 PM PDT

Trademark holders have rights - yes.
But you cannot expect trademark holders rights to be extended in such a manner as to force the registrant, registrar and registry to prove their "innocence' when registering a domain name.
One example that has been used by people that were involved with the IRT (misnomer of the year and a really horrible acronym) was "apple". It's a fruit. It was a fruit long before anyone had even thought about computers and long before Jobs and co used the term to name their company.
If some of the trademark guard dogs had their way then maybe we'd need to rename fruits too ...
The examples, as Jothan points out, are, as usual put forward in a way that is designed to support your narrow viewpoint.
Let's look a couple of your examples.
.Tel only launched a couple of months ago, so the registration figures at present are totally meaningless. If the TLD had been around for about 3 years and was still at that low level then your point might have some validity. It hasn't, so your "point" is more than a little blunt.
.asia is restricted. Unless a contact has an address in the Asia Pacific region they can't register a domain. Sure that can be "worked around", but it obviously impacts the growth if numbers are the only barometer of a TLDs success. In many respects it's the Asia Pacific equivalent of .eu and that quasi-cctld had its best month to date last month.
In any case last time I checked trademark holders and their brands need to have end users. If they didn't have end users they'd lose any value, both online and offline and if trademark holders think that they can pervert the entire process to meet their needs then the internet industry is doomed.

Michele - I appreciate your thoughts, but Elisa Cooper  –  Aug 31, 2009 2:05 PM PDT

Michele - I appreciate your thoughts, but I am not sure how protecting rights holders against cyber squatting leads to a "doomed" Internet industry.

Protecting famous marks on the Internet from fraudsters and criminals makes the Internet a safer place to be.

ElisaThe "safety" and "fraud" arguments are valid Michele Neylon  –  Aug 31, 2009 3:09 PM PDT

Elisa

The "safety" and "fraud" arguments are valid to a point. But only to a point.
Financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies may be targetted by various types of fraud, but there are plenty of ways of dealing with these particular types of cases without creating a series of processes that will have a wholly negative impact on innovation, which the IRT proposals effectively does.

For example, in your article, you stated that corporate domain holders had changed their tactics with respect to cctlds. It's hardly reasonable to blame the rest of the internet community for a trademark holder going "nuts" and registering hundreds of derivative domains in a cctld that would never have been registered otherwise.

If the trademark community can show the rest of us that they have some respect for the concept of "fair use" and aren't viewing everything through their narrow blinkered view of reality then maybe there might be some hope. Until then I'm afraid we cannot agree

Regards

Michele

what about .me and .co? Paul Stahura  –  Apr 28, 2011 3:49 PM PDT

Elisa,

Why didn't you put the number of registrations for .co and .me on your "uptake" list?
Could it be there they have had a large uptake so it disproves your point?
As you say "facts are facts"

And even if every single one (instead of the 90% you quote) of the 525,000 names registered at Mark Monitor (a company catering to brand holder's registrations) were defensive registrations, that is only 0.5% of the total number of com and net names registered being defensive registrations.

Oh I see.... Paul Stahura  –  Apr 28, 2011 3:55 PM PDT

...the article was written in 2009.  Its before .co came out, but not before .me.  I'm just seeing it now.  Anyway future events have disproved your point as those two TLDs have had much bigger uptake than .tel had.

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