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Reasons Why You Should NOT Apply for a .BRAND New gTLD

There are two kinds of new domain name extensions: those dedicated to selling domain names through the network of accredited Registrars and those dedicated to a personnel use. I call these "dotBRANDs" or ".brand" new gTLDs since they are used — most of the time — by Trademarks for their own benefit. This article focuses on .BRAND new generic Top-Level Domains. In the ICANN vocabulary, these are "Registry Agreements with Specification 13”.

Slow down: when is the next round of new gTLDs?

As one can imagine, this often is the first question: "when is the next round of the ICANN new gTLD program, and when can I submit my application?" And this is my answer: as long as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) does not provide a date, let's just say that no one knows. What about 2022 or 2023 maybe? No one can tell, and not even that consultant who works for this ICANN Working Group on the next final version of the "Applicant Guidebook (AGB)".

This notion of "AGB" is important because all information provided in this article comes from the only available methodologies provided by the ICANN, and it is 2012 new gTLD applicant guidebook. If many documents are being worked on at the moment for the next round, only the final (and complete) version of this AGB will offer the right details about the next round of new gTLDs, methodology, prices, etc… All this to remind that the prices provided in this article come from the 2012 Applicant GuideBook and these could change.

An expensive investment

Let's call the $185,000 "an investment" to submit your application. If I perfectly understand that some Fortune 500 companies can throw away that money just to secure their assets and not do anything with their .BRAND new domain name extension, these companies are not really representative of: 1) Companies worldwide; 2) Best practices for such a tool (a dotBrand new gTLD is a tool, not just a domain name).

As of 31 July 2020, many companies who had applied for a .BRAND new gTLD withdrew their application and lost their investment: 1) One reason is that they didn't find a concrete use for this tool eight year after being validated by the ICANN (we call this "delegation"); 2) It cost them too much to maintain maybe? Let's just not forget that applying is not the only expense: far from that.

What about "taxes" and other expenses?

Did you know that applying for a .BRAND is not exactly the same as registering for a domain name? Let's compare the two:

A. Buying a domain name:

1) You select a good ICANN accredited Registrar (you can do this by yourself); 2) you register the domain name and pay the initial fee: between $10 and "more"; 3) you renew that domain name once a year (most of the time) and for the same amount (most of the time too); 4) the domain name belongs to you until you stop renewing it.

B. Buying a .BRAND new domain name extension:

1) You select an experimented service provider to fill in, and submit, your application (I suggest not to submit your application by yourself); 2) you pay the initial fee: $185,000; 3) you pay your service provider according to the contract you signed with him to take care of ICANN procedures during the life of your .BRAND new gTLD (most of the time your Backend-Registry service provider offers that service); 4) you pay your Backend-Registry service provider according to the contract you signed with him (I suggest to sign a contract according to the number of domains you plan to develop and for less than $1 per domain per year); 5) you pay the ICANN quarter fee ($6,250) for a total of $25,000 per year; 6) don't forget the mandatory monitoring fee; 7) "plus the rest".

In more simple words, it is not the same as maintaining a domain name: if there is no plan to truly use your .BRAND new domain name extension, it is just money thrown by the window. The Registry Agreement Termination Information Page shows the list of terminated .BRAND new gTLD applications, and when investing your money, you don't want then to appear on that list.

Organizing around a .BRAND

Operating a domain name makes things simple for emails… you know… sending an email that matches with your domain name? It is obvious that if my domain name is "guillon.com", my email address will end in "@guillon.com", isn't it? It is to me, but what will it be when you operate your own domain name extension? How will you organize emails for your employees? What about if you have different branches: most will probably have their own personalized domain name, which means different domains for their email.

This is an internal discussion to have before submitting an application to the ICANN because end users are not yet familiar with .BRAND new gTLDs, and instead of enforcing trust in your brand, you could do the opposite: will your clients feel comfortable navigating on www.service.brand and receive emails from your old email ending in @servicebrand.com ? My answer is "no" unless they've been informed about changes long in advance: you don't want your visitors/readers/consumers/clients/patients to be confused, and that is why they need to be informed — in advance — if you change to a .BRAND domain name extension. By the way, this is exactly what I would like my bank to do to limit phishing attempts (but that's another question).

What about your front page?

You are familiar with what your customers read on your front page, and they often access it the exact same way. This is to be considered before your application is delegated by the ICANN because:

  • You will force your customers to change their behavior when accessing your website (where do they start?) and when navigating on it.
  • What is a standard front page for a dotBrand domain name extension? On traditional domain names, it often is the second-level domain name to which is added the extension (i.e., guillon.com), for a .BRAND new gTLD, it is ... what is it again: product.brand, home.brand (not for French), service.brand, index.brand (come on...). The truth is that there is no standard for a .BRAND front page and consumers are used to standards. You will have to invent yours and train your existing consumers.

There are other reasons:

  • You can't sell domain names through the network of accredited registrars with a .BRAND new gTLD unless your lawyers are able to create complex agreements for your customers to sign: franchises for example;
  • There are domain names that you won't be able to create: for country names, you will need "a special authorization" (...) so forget about your www.france.brand and www.usa.brand;
  • There are other domains blocked on all extensions listed in the Applicant Guidebook and oh… on Reserved Names too;
  • There is a marketing guy in your company shouting around "a little too loud" about his brilliant idea to create your .BRAND and unfortunately, it gave the same idea to another similar trademark in another country and which has better prior rights than you: let's hope then that your future new gTLD specialist is able to deal with this because if you have a competitor in the next ICANN new gTLD round, you can already start to increase your application budget;
  • Did you check the list of Similar new gTLDs to ensure that your investment could not be blocked just because of this?
  • Your .BRAND is an ISO 3 code? Don't forget to read the next applicant guidebook because it was already prohibited in the previous one and I doubt that it changes in the next one: some applicants (and famous ones) did not pay attention to this in the past and paid the $185,000 fee (...)
  • There is a guy in the company who says he can create your .BRAND on his own: good luck with that. They existed in the first round of the ICANN new gTLDs too and none succeeded.
  • The guys in Marketing are not high enough in the hierarchy of the company and the guy sitting on the last floor was not convinced: convince him first or drop it because on-boarding the IT department is more going to be a threat to your project than an opportunity. Migrating to a .BRAND means lots of changes for the IT and their job is to ensure that things work FIRST, branding comes SECOND and a .BRAND new gTLD is about what: B-R-A-N-D-I-N-G — don't forget that.
  • It has become a standard to have an SSL certificate (it sometimes comes free with your domain name), but what about it when you launch dozens of new ".brand" websites? HSTS will be a solution for you, but it won't have the price of a simple SSL certificate.
  • Your visit cards will need to be changed for all of your employees: fair enough if you are a small company, expect quite a small budget if you have thousands of employees.
  • Changing email signatures to the new email and correct URL to your new front page. I still receive emails from .BRANDs with the old ".com" or ".fr" email.
  • Some .BRAND new gTLDs from the first round still have not launched, some reasons can be internal politics or just a change of person (note that this is an expensive one). Sometimes there's just no reason because "time passes," and no one wants to take responsibility for "changing": many applications were withdrawn for this reason. Changing to a .BRAND new gTLD requires thinking upfront, convincing the right persons, and a strong plan.
  • Search Engine Optimization will have to be reviewed from scratch: some of the traffic won't be lost, but if your business relies on your existing traffic, I strongly suggest talking to the guy in charge of SEO before deciding about changing to a dotBrand new gTLD. The possibilities are endless, and in my opinion, all SEO specialists should love to be offered to play with such a tool but is it the case when fortunes were already spent in SEO?

Coming next, "Reasons Why YOU SHOULD apply for a .BRAND new gTLD."

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".

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