As a seasoned internet user, even an old 'Domainer', I was there when ICANN launched the first round of New TLDs. I remember the criticism we received from the media back then. We were invited to countless roundtable discussions, press conferences, and local internet events at which we were expected to answer the key media question: "Why are new TLDs necessary?" Dot BIZ, .INFO, and four more were the test bed new TLDs — I represented .BIZ in EMEA.
We constructed arguments based on the future internet; where segmentation was possible. We were building a 'business section' online with .BIZ. We proposed that there remained only limited options for elegant domain names under .COM and .NET and the growing global business community, particularly new businesses launching their online presence, needed new inventory. Back then there were just 30 million .COMs. Now, 10 years later there are 95 Million. So inventory wasn't the issue. People associated the Internet with .COM and our job to launch these new TLDs was to be an uphill struggle.
Now in 2011, it's been 10 years since the first round of new TLDs was launched by ICANN. Those six names were reasonably successful. I say reasonably given the advertising community's disinterest in them. Between the top two performers — .BIZ and .INFO there are now close to 10 Million names worldwide. In the ICANN lead up to their launch in 2000, many of the same industry players submitted similar bids to what ICANN is asking of applicants in this round. The same process was repeated in the second round of new gTLDs with names like .MOBI. In that round many names represented different identities and new uses starting to see a little innovation in the web name space.
This time, however, I see one very different reason for new TLDs. The time has come for Communities, Geographies and Brands to have access to authenticity and authority online. Today's opportunity is all about preventing fraud and misrepresentation online. Brands and named personalities have had to fight tooth and nail to hang on to, or win back their rightful names. Anyone can register anything under the current generic TLD space where you find dirt-cheap anything.COM. Name sellers have built name generating software to come up with a wide variety of options for any name in .COM. If a company has not been extreme in their diligence to protect the IP of their brand online — they are wide open to fraud. The domain name space has spent almost two decades growing up. Fraudulent domain owners can now secure lock a name, and hide their identity. That is so long as their luck does not run out and they are found misrepresenting a brand, or swindling consumers.
Which brings me to my point. I'm an online shopper. I love the experience, the browsing, the solitude of my screen, the satisfying dragging of icons into my virtual shopping trolley.
My particular weakness is a luxury handbag bag. And in this I'm far from being alone. I'm part of a substantial target audience. Alas it's an audience that is targeted by fraudsters.
After many years of managing to never be fooled by the deal that just looks too good — they got me. A respected friend, from the legal community no less, forwarded an email with a link to the Mulberry-Sale.com site. And the deals were very attractive, not outrageously cheap, just the right pricepoint to be believable.
Feeling very smug about my clever find, I proceeded to checkout, entered all my bankcard details and looked forward to receiving my package. Five days later I began receiving confirmations about the delivery. The tracking number and shipping company listed were the giveaway — why would a Chinese delivery company handle a US-European shipment? And then I noticed the style of English — Asian style not US and I knew I'd been had. I immediately called my bank. Too late: of course they couldn't put a stop payment on the charge, I had already confirmed it.
I wrote Mulberry customer care an email about the experience and warned them they had better be more diligent about protecting their brand online. I suggested they take such actions as registering any combination of their brand in .COM and other geographic markets they sold to. It took me a few moments to escalate my tone towards the obvious — APPLY FOR THE .MULBERRY TLD and save us the headache of wondering if a site belongs to you or not. I want to go to your OFFICIAL Mulberry website, and to know that anything not bearing the .MULBERRY domain name — is not your site. I want that from all of the brands selling their wares online. I'm tired of being fooled by clever cyber-crooks. Even if I should have know better.
At the ticket price of USD $185,000 to apply for a TLD with ICANN, coupled with the consultancy fees brand owners will most likely need to take on to write a bid that meets all the demands of the ICANN registry contract — only the worthy will bother. It's apparently the only way we can ever be guaranteed a trusted, secure space online to transact and interact with a known entity. Remember when the WhiteHouse.com website was highjacked? ICANN is asking for a real and true commitment from those who want their identity online to be permanent and guaranteed. And I'm asking nothing less as a consumer interacting with those names online.
By Jennie-Marie Larsen, CEO at DomainDiction
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