June 30, 2008
So, Paris has been the domain names capital for a few days. Hail to those I met at the ICANN meeting, or during "off-ICANN" conferences on domain names. Now this is all over, what's left?
1. New TLDS, of course, have been the hottest topic. A topic that will probably cool down very quickly.
First, no one knows exactly how much it will cost to apply for a new TLD... but a six figure sum often comes into discussions. With such a barrier at the entrance of this market (leaving aside the technical hurdles), only two categories of legal entities are likely to apply: Candidates with a strong project for a new extension, and big businesses.
The first category will have to spend a lot in advertising so that people get used to their new extension. Promotion costs will be higher if all new TLDs are implemented at the same time... (here again, the "first come" motto is relevant). If their business model is to sell only premium names for high fees, .tv-style, it will be even harder to have internet users accustomed to their new .something.
The second category is the one of global brand owners. EBay is said to contemplate a .ebay TLD, for example. One can easily imagine Google applying for a .google, and wildcard the whole second level (why would it register third party names?). Would global trademark owners' move reinforce the value and the legal protection of their brand? Theoretically, yes, but it may make room for new dotsquatting acts, as Eliott points: "Sure, it would be cool if they had Art.Ebay, Autographs.Ebay, SportsMemorabilia.Ebay…etc. Great, right? Well, what happens when consumers confusingly type in SportsMemorabiliaEbay.com by mistake? This is going to create hundreds of thousands of additional typos, which will most certainly be grabbed by cybersquatters".
It is hard to guess whether new TLDs will create new uses... Only one thing is highly predictable: The more new TLDs there will be, the more it will benefit search tools!
2. And the more the namespace extends, the more trademark owners are angry. During the ICANN IP constituency meeting last week, someone suggested that trademark holders collude not to register any of their signs in the TLDs to be created.
One thing struck me, during discussions I had with owners of large domain names portfolios: They have too many names in their hands that were transferred to them after disputes, but these poor names get costly (registration fees year after year). A big French company in the pharmaceutical field now asks for cancellation of names rather than their transfer, to avoid being the holder of names it does not want. Who would like to breed thousands of unwanted children?
Listening to large portfolio owners, I wonder whether they could opt for... parking! Could there be a form of domain name parking that suits their specific needs?