You may have seen a new proposal for a "mobile" top-level domain name for use by something called "mobile users" whatever they are. (The domain will not actually be named .mobile, rumours are they are hoping for a coveted one-letter TLD like .m "to make it easier to type on a mobile phone.)
Centuries ago, as trademark law began its evolution, we learned one pretty strong rule about building rules for a name system for commerce, and even for non-commerce.
Nobody should be given ownership of generic terms. Nobody should have ownership rights in a generic word like "apple" — not Apple Computer, not Apple Records, not the Washington State Apple Growers, not a man named John Apple.
Rather, generics must be shared. Ownership rights can accrue to them only in specific contexts that are not generic. Because the word "Apple" has no generic meaning when it comes to computers, we allow a company to get rights in that name when applied to computers. A different company has those rights when it applies to records. More than this, different parties could own the same term with the same context in two different cities. There is probably a "China Delight" restaurant in your town.
We hammered out the rules to manage such naming systems literally over centuries, with many laws and zillions of court cases.
Then, when DNS came along we (and I include myself since I endorsed it at the time) threw it all away. We said, when it came to naming on the internet, we would create generic top level domains, and let people own generic names within them.
Thus, "com" for commerce has within it "drugstore.com." Centuries of law established nobody could own the generic word "drugstore" but when it comes to names used on the internet, we reversed that. No wonder that company paid near a million for that domain as I recall, and at the record, the inflated number of 7.5 million was paid for business.com
The old TLDs have that mistake built into them. On the internet, we are the only EFF organization because we were first. Nobody else can be that.
The new TLDs continue that trend. Be it .museum, which allows one body to control the generic word museum, or a new proposal for .mobile.
Because of this, people fight over the names, pay huge sums, sue and insist only one name is right for them.
I maintain that the only way to get a competitive innovative space is to slowly get rid of the generics and allow a competitive space of branded TLDs for resale. .yahoo, .dunn, .yellowpages, .google, .wipo, and a hundred other branded resellers competing on even footing to create value in their brand and win customers with innovative designs, better service, lower prices and all the usual things. I presume .wipo would offer trademark holders powerful protections within their domain. Let them. Perhaps .braddomains would, when you bought a domain, give you every possible typo and homonym for your domain so people who hear it on the radio won't get it wrong typing it in. Perhaps .centraal (former, non-generic name of the now defunct "RealNames" company) would follow their keyword rules. I know .frankston would offer permanent numeric IDs to all. Let them all innovate, let them all compete.
We're nowhere near this system, but I didn't just make up the idea of not owning generics. I think centuries of experience shows it is the best way to go. I wrote this today in response to the .mobile proposal, but you can also find much more on the ideas in my site of DNS essays including this plan to break up ICANN, and essays on generics and also the goals we have for a domain system.
From the "Brad Ideas” Blog.
Industry Giants Embarking on Internet Frontiers
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Minds + Machines
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