As Dotbrand URLs Loom, ICANN Faces gTLD Backlash [Updated]


The imminent change in domain names that will be ushered in by ICANN’s new gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain) program is turning into a veritable war.

A last-minute campaign to stop it is being led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which has reached out to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Direct Marketing Association, and more than 20 other advertising and marketing organizations to join their protest. They’re lobbying Congress and the Commerce Department on the new TLD program, which is scheduled to commence on January 12th, with the ANA telling Adweek they will take their objections to court if necessary.

Separately, another consortium of brands and trademark holders calling themselves CADNA, or the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, is hosting a conference today in New York, where they will discuss their concerns and collective proposal to ICANN. With speakers including the VP of legal for DirecTV and the former VP of digital for Mattel, CADNA is taking a less aggressive approach to the issue.[more]

“CADNA is not working with the ANA,” CADNA spokesperson Samantha Demetriou of FairWinds Partners, the domain consultants organizing CADNA, told brandchannel. “We have been working on ICANN-related issues (with the NTIA, the Department of Commerce and Congress for about three years now.” To that end, CADNA has been setting its sights first on the Commerce Department, since the National Tele-communications and Information Administration (NTIA) manages the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) that allows ICANN to organize domain names.

“CADNA does not have any plans to take ICANN to court at the moment,” Demetriou added. “Rather, the goal of our conference was to educate brand owners about new gTLDs, and to submit a proposal to ICANN to make the New gTLD Program less detrimental for businesses. We have worked, and continue to work, with the NTIA and the DoC to improve ICANN’s organizational structure and its level of accountability. But our focus now is on making the New gTLD Program less harmful for brands, rather than derailing the program or suing ICANN.”

“Businesses are outright angry with ICANN because of the way that this program has been structured,” Josh Bourne of FairWinds also stated. “We are not trying to derail the rollout of new gTLDs altogether, but rather, we are proposing an opportunity for ICANN to make this Program much less detrimental to brands and businesses. By setting a date for when it will open a second application window, ICANN has the chance to alleviate a great deal of the anxiety and frustration that businesses are feeling over the fact that they feel forced into applying for new gTLDs in early 2012 in order to not be left behind. Right now, businesses feel like their backs are against the wall, and they don’t like it.”

Without a doubt, confusion abounds. Even as brands such as Deloitte, Canon and Motorola are eyeing their own top-level domain names, America’s National Retail Federation has joined the opposition to allowing any word in any language to become a URL .suffix, and is lobbying for a delay to ICANN’s gTLD plan.

“The single comment we are hearing most often from retailers is that they wish they had more time,” NRF SVP/General Counsel Mallory Duncan stated. “Whether they’re for it or against it, everybody agrees that there has been too much uncertainty around this process. Right now, uncertainty reigns.”

Back in September, DMA president and CEO Larry Kimmel said: “We fail to see the value of this program to our members (3,600 companies). In fact, we foresee it costing them excessive time and money.”

The ANA’s resistance to ICANN’s gTLD program is summed up by ANA President Bob Liodice’s comment that “[The] program will throw the domain-name universe into widespread confusion while generating untold costs to domestic and international businesses and harm to consumers.” The ANA’s gTLD action page states, “The ANA has detailed major flaws in the proposed ICANN program that would permit applicants to claim virtually any word, generic or branded, as Internet top-level domains.”

The gTLD plan has been percolating since 2008 but “its scope and consequences have largely flown under the radar of most commercial businesses,” NRF’s Duncan wrote to Lawrence Strickling, head of the NTIA. “To adequately plan, businesses need some level of clarity. To date, that guidance is lacking,” she adds, even though ICANN recently updated its gTLD Applicant Guidebook, and offers a dedicated microsite for gTLD information and applications.

In another development last week, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, perhaps sick of the whole issue, announced Friday that he’s stepping down when his three-year term ends in July.

Find out more about the pro’s and cons of a gTLD dotbrand URL here.


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