ICANN Still Going Ahead With New Internet Domain Expansion On Thursday
January 11, 2012

ICANN Still Going Ahead With New Internet Domain Expansion On Thursday

Internet domain regulators on Monday quelled fears by several bodies, including the United Nations, that a planned expansion of website addresses could cause severe problems, stating that safeguards for the system had been set in place.

The UN, the International Monetary Fund and 26 other organizations and agencies last month wrote the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) asking it to bar addresses like .un or .imf from being scooped up by “cybersquatters.”

Despite the concerns, ICANN is still set to launch the domain name “revolution” on Thursday. The new addresses will allow companies, organizations, and even cities to secure new domains besides those that end in the standard .com, .net, .gov, .edu, etc.

The Red Cross and the International Olympic Committee have already secured top-level domains (TLD) exclusions, meaning their names cannot be registered once the process begins.

The addition of new domain names is part of ICANN´s aim to create an open, dynamic Internet. “It´s an opportunity for brands to carve their slice of the market,” ICANN spokesman Brad White told Jon Swartz of USA TODAY.

However, applying for a new TLD is not cheap by any means. It requires an $185,000 registry fee, more than twice what ICANN charged in 2000 when it last accepted applications for TLDs. The process also takes time. ICANN said it expects the application process to take up to a year.

The bids for TLDs will be accepted for 90 days and require details about the applicants´ finances and technical capability, and how they plan to use the domains they are seeking, White said. If more than one equally qualified applicant seeks the domain name, and auction could occur.

Many overseers are looking to sell their names to registrars such as GoDaddy.com. The registrars, in turn, resell secondary names -- words to the left of the dot -- to companies and individuals that want to own their own Web addresses.

Since overseers are likely to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on technical support and promotional efforts, many could be large companies such as Canon that want to control the registries they acquire. Only major brands such as Coke and Nike can apply for total-level domain names bearing their names, making them masters of their own domains.

“For a bank, should it acquire a top-level domain-name, it would leave no doubt about the authenticity of its addresses, reducing the chances of spam and phishing attempts,” Jim Rogers, a vice president of marketing at Neustar, a provider of registry services that has applied for the “.neustar” domain, told Swartz.

Many organizations, agencies, and corporations are concerned that cybersquatters will attempt to acquire TLDs to run their phishing scams.

Cybersquatters register addresses that appear to belong to others, sometimes in the hope of selling them to those who have a more logical claim to them. But they also register them with the aim to trick others into thinking they are visiting a trusted site.

“We´re very sensitive to those concerns,” ICANN president Rod Beckstrom told USA Today, referring to the objections by international bodies. “We´ll be responding to that letter.”

Beckstrom said that any TLDs being used by a trademark or service mark owned by someone else, could be subject to an investigation and subsequent removal of the domain.

Private corporations are also worried about the potential for TLDs falling into the wrong hands. Dan Jaffe, an executive of the US Association of National Advertisers, warned there could be enormous “defensive spending” by companies buying up each version of their name.

With a registry fee of $185,00 per domain name, comes annual fees of $25,000, driving the cost of each domain over $400,000 in just ten years.

In their letter to ICANN, the international bodies said: “The IGO (intergovernmental organization) community concerns relate to the increased potential for the misleading registration and use of IGO names and acronyms in the domain name system.”

Jamie Hedlund, ICANN vice president for government affairs, said that while international organizations did not have trade marks for their names, terms protected by international treaty would receive the same protection as trademarks.

“If the United Nations is protected by treaty, (and) someone applies for .un, they´ll have lost their $185,000 application fee because ... they don´t have the right to use that name,” he told Patrick Worsnip of Reuters.

The application process for new TLDs begins Thursday April 12 and continues for 90 days, said Beckstrom. ICANN said the application process could raise the number of generic TLDs from about two dozen now to possibly hundreds next year when the process is complete.

While ICANN has not given figures, independent experts have predicted there will be anything between several hundred to 4,000 applications when application process ends. A list of all the applications will be published in May.


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