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New TLDs For Dummies (Sort of)

Michele Neylon

There's been a lot of media attention on the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) process in the last few days, which is a good thing. Unfortunately most of it is badly written, misleading or simply misinformed.

Let's look at the reality.

To start with, there are currently 20 gTLDs i.e. "global" Top-Level Domains (extensions). These are:

  1. com
  2. net
  3. org
  4. info
  5. biz
  6. mobi
  7. name
  8. museum
  9. pro
  10. cat
  11. aero
  12. asia
  13. coop
  14. jobs
  15. tel
  16. travel
  17. edu
  18. gov
  19. mil
  20. int

There are a further 248 country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) — such as ".ie", ".im" etc. — I won't list them here!

During the ICANN meeting in Paris the new TLD process was started.

What that means in plain English is that ICANN said "let's do this", but they didn't say "how", "when" or "how much".

In reality what has happened so far is that there has been a LOT of discussion and debate and disagreement. There will be more to come in the coming weeks and months as the process moves forward.

First off ...

Can anyone get a TLD?

No. In order to get a TLD you would need to meet criteria on multiple levels, both financial and technical. A lot of the media coverage seems to suggest that just about anyone who wants to can run their own domain extension — the reality is that they can't.

How much will it cost?

The application fee is currently set at $186k, however you would really need to have a couple of million in the coffers if you wanted to actually launch a TLD. The application fee does not cover any legal costs, backend costs, marketing, staff, PR etc., Depending on the TLD you are interested in setting up you might also need to have lobbyists working with you.

When will the new TLDs be available?

At the moment there is no exact date. ICANN is pushing for opening the application process in Q1 of 2010. Bearing in mind that applications won't be accepted immediately and that any new TLD operator would need a "ramp up" period, I doubt if there would be any launched until 2011 at the earliest.

What about trademark holders? Will people be able to "squat" on brand names easily?

Trademark holders have been engaged in the process and the IRT report was published recently. In essence TM holders' concerns will need to be addressed as part of the process, though other parties rights should not be ignored.

Who is planning on launching new TLDs?

Nobody knows exactly who will be applying, as some people are in "stealth" mode, but there is a partial list of possible TLDs here.

The applicants fall into several categories:

  • cultural / special interest groups – like the Basques or Breton
  • city domains – New York, Berlin, Paris are all pitching for their own TLDs (.nyc, .berlin, .paris)
  • commercial — too many to even begin naming
  • other — single registrant type applications for example if BMW were to get .bmw

How much will registering one of these new domains cost?

The cost for registering a domain name will depend on the registry operator.

What about IDNs?

Some organisations are trying to launch IDN TLDs (i.e. domain extensions that not only support non-Latin characters, but are actually made up of non-Latin characters)

Should small businesses owners be concerned?

In short — no. Without knowing which new TLDs will launch it's impossible to give sage advice to small business owners at the moment, I would, however, encourage them to "keep an eye open". If a New York based business doesn't register the corresponding .nyc domain, for example, they could end up missing out on a fantastic opportunity. However the same business wouldn't gain much from registering a .paris ...

What about privacy?

This is still a matter that is being debated. If new registry operators were to adopt a Whois policy similar to that of .tel (Telnic) which protects private individuals it would be ideal.

What about spam? What about phishing?

Nobody is going to be able to setup a TLD for the sole purpose of abuse. Anyone who tells you otherwise is seriously misinformed. Spam and phishing isn't a TLD specific problem anyway.

If anyone has any other questions or queries they feel need addressing please let us know via the comments and I will do my best to respond.

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions. More blog posts from Michele Neylon can also be read here.

Related topics: ICANN, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

country code tld count Carl Byington  –  Jun 12, 2009 8:21 AM PDT

I see 252 country codes at http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/

CarlAccording to the ICANN blog there are Michele Neylon  –  Jun 12, 2009 8:33 AM PDT

Carl

According to the ICANN blog there are 248 http://blog.icann.org/2009/03/tld-census/ which is where I got the figure from

Michele

Nicely done. Jothan Frakes  –  Jun 13, 2009 12:25 PM PDT

Thank you for the link to our growing list of TLDs that have announced. 

We're finding as we get closer to the application rounds in Q1 2010 that there's massive interest in them, both from a potential registrant or user, but from an applicant point of view as well.

The main thing we're finding is an incredible learning curve on behalf of the general population in initial contact, like people demanding that a .jobs be introduced so that they can use it was one of the communications.  When I responded that it already existed, they were completely shocked about it.

Something like this simple starting point is a great reference to begin from.

Also, BTW @Carl and @you ... You are both right… there are about 4 ccTLDs that are not in the root as they are yet undelegated.  He's looking at the list of all of the ccTLDs and you're looking at the ones that are listed in the root zone.

that explains the inconsistency Carl Byington  –  Jun 13, 2009 5:58 PM PDT

bl # Saint Barthelemy
eh # Western Sahara
mf # Saint Martin (French part)
um # United States Minor Outlying Islands

Don't forget the end users of domain names! Josh Rowe  –  Jun 13, 2009 6:03 PM PDT

End users of the Internet are the people who use domain names to access web sites, email addresses and other Internet resources.  This important group of the domain name industry supply chain should not be confused or grouped with domain name registrants; who licence the use of domain names.

The needs of end users and registrants of domain names are different.

In a world with 1.5 billion Internet users (and growing), usability and utility of the Internet are key.

Domain names are a fundamental part of the Internet's user interface.  End users use domain names to assess the credibility of a destination (Nielsen, J., 1999).  End users spent between 22% to 25% of their time looking at the domain name in search engine results (Cutrell, E. & Guan, Z., 2007).

Improving the usability of the Internet depends upon effective domain name policy.  The benefits of more usable domain names include: higher sales, higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity, and reduced support costs (Usability Professionals' Association, 2008).

Domain name policies worldwide vary considerably between, and sometimes even within, countries. As a consequence, end users are inconvenienced by contradictory domain name policies, diminishing the predictability of an entity's domain name, and thus decreasing usability for end users.

A set of criteria has been developed, backed by academic research, with which policy makers can evaluate their domain name policies, in order to improve the usability of domain names for Internet end users.

There is significant existing research examining either domain names or usability in isolation. However, academic research examining the intersection of the two is scarce. The research that does exist, in this somewhat new and untried field of study, describes domain names as part of the web user interface. This foundation concept is built upon by this study. It was established that the predictability (and thus usability) of domain names relies on effective domain name policy. The importance of effective domain name policy is evident in the way that the non-standardised and widely delegated process of domain name policy development leads to unpredictable and inconsistent domain names. These attributes lead to poor usability, observable in decreased productivity, sales, revenues and customer satisfaction, as well as increased training and support costs, development time and costs, and maintenance costs.

In order to address the problem of poor domain name usability, a framework for domain name policy evaluation is proposed (see below). This new framework seeks to address usability and quality concerns by treating the domain name system as a user interface. The framework sets out criteria which allow domain name policy makers to critically assess domain name policies with end users in mind. The framework has the potential to set an international standard for the critical evaluation of domain name policy, and become the basis for further research. The framework can be used to evaluate the domain name policy for any domain name space, regardless of its position in the overall domain name hierarchy. Whilst this study focuses on Internet domain names, the framework can also be usefully applied to internal or intranet domain names.

A Framework For Domain Name Policy Evaluation

Criteria for domain name policy evaluation.  Examples for each are provided at http://domainusability.com (they would not fit in the 6000 character limit of this comment):

A. Who are the intended users for the domain name space?  Consider end users of the domain name (not the domain name registrants).

B. How is the domain name space meant to be interpreted by the intended users?

C. How else could the domain name space be interpreted by the intended users?

D. Who are the unintended users for the domain name space?  Consider end users of the domain name (not the domain name registrants) who are not the intended users for the domain name space.

E. How could the domain name space be interpreted by the unintended users?

F. Is the domain name space consistent compared with other domain name spaces for the intended or untended users?

G. What other semantic meanings does the domain name space have for the intended or untended users?

H. How easy is the domain name space to spell for intended or unintended users?

I. How easy is the domain name space to type for intended or unintended users?

J. How easy is the domain name space to say and pronounce for intended or unintended users?

K. How memorable is the domain name space for intended or unintended users?

L. How meaningful is the domain name space in the languages and scripts of the intended or untended users?

Bibliography

Rowe, J. (2008). Improving Internet Usability - A Framework For Domain Name Policy Evaluation, Retrieved from http://domainusability.com/

Contact: Josh Rowe
josh@email.nu
DomainUsability.com

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