Firms 'in the dark' about new domain suffixes

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers yesterday revealed the first batch of applications for newly available generic Top Level Domains (TLDs).

Almost 2,000 applications have been received within the first 24 hours, including for .love, .food, .app, .bank and even .lol.

ICANN, a not-for-profit US-based body, must now approve or decline the applications – a process small service providers, internet-start-ups and behemoth brands alike will be watching closely.

“While potentially very profitable for some people and opening up a range of possibilities for new services, the whole exercise has been viewed with trepidation by many brand-owners,” explained Mark Owen, intellectual property specialist at Harbottle & Lewis.

“Already faced with the costs of having to defend their brand against  unauthorised uses online and in .coms, they [established brand owners] will now have  hundreds of new uses to object to.”

Marks & Clerk, another law firm, agreed: “Not all applications on this list [of 1, 920 applications at the time of writing], will represent a proactive desire to incorporate a branded domain name into marketing strategies.

“Some applications will have had a defensive motivation, i.e. businesses and organisations wishing to ensure that a certain domain name cannot be used - or abused - by others.”

Partner at the firm Campbell Newell added: "Looking at the list, it can be seen that there are several domain names (such as 'app' and 'book') with multiple reputable applicants, none of which have a particularly unique claim to the phrase in question.

“It will be interesting to see how these disputes play out, both during and after the registration phase.”

With more certainty, Newell said ICANN’s move to make TLDs available was far from the “damp squib,” which some speculated last year.

“The sheer number of applications - especially given this is only the first round - goes to show that the demand for branded or otherwise customised domain names is very much there,” he said.

“As commerce continues to migrate online, and the internet embeds itself into more and more aspects of everyday life, brand and reputation are becoming more important than ever before. So it makes sense for companies and organisations to seize the opportunity to distinguish themselves like this.”

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of UK registration service Nominet, reflected:  "New TLDs represent a major change in the landscape of the internet… [but] clearly more now needs to be done to raise awareness of the issues and implications for all internet users across Britain.

“Businesses need not panic if they haven't yet considered them, but they should certainly watch developments, and develop a clear policy before the changes take place in 2013.  In the meantime, having an established, trusted country code – such as domains ending in .uk – will remain one of the best ways to be found online.”

According to Nominet, the majority (55%) of senior decision makers in UK businesses who have a website say they are unaware that new domain suffixes are to become available.

The finding, from a UK-wide poll in May and June this year, is despite 90% of those businesses stating that the right domain name is either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important to their business.

 

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