ICANN 43, the other digital conference of note this week, wraps up today in Costa Rica with a piece of the Internet’s future in hand, as the April 12th deadline for domain name applications draws near.
As of March 10th, an estimated 254 applicants had registered their intent to apply for generic top-level domain names or so-called dot-brands, each one having up to 50 new gTLDs, although "the actual number of new gTLDs for which application will be made is still unknown," according to an official advisory.
The expectation is the number will be relatively low as major companies including Coca-Cola and General Electric plus 50 or so other big brands remain opposed, citing reasons of increased costs, customer confusion and potential for Internet fraud.
However, a USA/UK study commissioned by Afilias (which is in the dot-branding business) in partnership with Vanson Bourne found that 82% of major brands are aware of the opportunity to apply for a dot Brand TLD, and that of those “aware” 54% intend to apply.
The survey was conducted in February with 200 consumer-facing businesses with 3,000-10,000+ employees. Almost half of those businesses, 47%, were not aware of the imminent March 29th deadline (and complete the application by April 12th), and 17% of respondents said it would be “regrettable” to miss.
“The names we give the spaces we care about spending time are important. These new spaces and the names we give them are likely to become like our social flags planted and waving back at us and those like us across the great amorphous Web. Flags which signal where we are and who were are with and what we do,” writes Thom Kennon from the ICANN conferene.
Almost as important as names in the imminent landscape of the new Internet are ‘strings’ – the name to the right of the dot. “The buzz seems to be tipping things like .Apple (“no-brainer, 10 million names, automatic”), .Law (“picture it, all the lawyers, in one place, just in case we ever want to …” you complete the thought), and many people’s early favorite .Music — whose backers suggest “if you’re serious about music, we’ve got your new home address”” adds Kennon.
The new gTLDs, which ICANN began accepting registrations for in January, enable domain names up to 64 characters and include brand names and regional suffixes.
Rod Beckstrom, ICANN CEO and President said his organization “must root out conflicts of interest as part of its rollout of new gTLDs to ensure that companies and industry groups do not unduly influence its policies,” and asked ICANN members with outside roles that may be a conflict of interest not to participate. "We have tried to put in a very wide separation so the issue has a clear line of demarcation."
Beckstrom, who steps down as ICANN president in July, also said the process is designed to favor community groups over corporations and to permit trademark-holders of intellectual properties to register related domains.
In addition to the pros and cons of registering a dotbrand application, the ICANN timeline to bear in mind:
March 29, 2012: Registration closes for TLD Application System (TAS) in order to submit application
April 12, 2012: Application window closes
May 1, 2012: "Reveal Day" – ICANN will publish a list of all the TLD strings for which applications have been filed. This date will also trigger two processes: 1) Application Comment Process – Between May 1 and June 30, any interested party may submit comments regarding any of the proposed gTLDs for consideration by the application evaluation panels. 2) Objection Period – Beginning May 1, and for approximately 7 months, formal objections to any of the new gTLD applications based on string confusion, legal objections, community concerns, or limited public interest bases may be filed.
June 12, 2012: Initial evaluation of gTLD applications begins, focusing on possible string confusion, similarity with reserved strings, geographic name ineligibility, or potential instability.
October 2012: ICANN will announce the organization operating the Trademark Clearinghouse and publish their procedures, rules and regulations.
November 12, 2012: Initial evaluation period ends and results posted.
November 29, 2012: Last day for applicants or evaluators to request extended evaluation to consider additional information regarding application, string, and applicant.
January 2013: ICANN expects 1) the first NgTLDs to begin operation, and 2) trademark owners to begin recording trademarks with the Trademark Clearinghouse.