Just Because ICANN….

ICANN
ICANN Changes on the way?

When there’s no reason whatsoever for a younger brother to annoy the crap out of his older sister, he might tell you he doesn’t know why he annoys her. Yet, deep down in the depths of his being he annoys his sister thinking, “Just because I can.” Sound familiar?

Let’s take that “Just because I can” mentality to a global level.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has opened the door – some think Pandora’s box – to expanding the number of top-level domains (TLD) from 22 to, well, a number that hasn’t been fully determined. ICANN opened the TLD registration evaluation process on January 12, 2012 on their TLD Application System, requiring applicants to pay a $185,000 application fee. The deadline for submitting TLD applications to ICANN is April 12.

Putting things in perspective, ICANN’s introduction of .xxx as a TLD won’t hold a candle to magnitude and scope of all the possible TLD’s that could arise. New TLDs could consist of almost any word, phrase, brand, etc.. Aside from things that are generally considered offensive, dropping $185,000+ for a new, unique TLD might be good for bolstering a company’s brand.

But, then again….

More TLDs, More Competition?

Part of ICANN’s rationale for offering more TLDs is to promote competition that will provide “dramatic expansion” to the Internet. That’s not how some Internet experts and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) see it. Many, including the FTC, are of the opinion that expanding the number of TLDs won’t create the kind of competition ICANN intended. Instead, many expect the dramatic expansion of opportunities for cybersquatters, scammers, phishers, and others who make life difficult on the worldwide web to create problems for legitimate businesses.

Businesses having to compete for their own brand by adding one or more additional domain suffixes to their collection is competition that plays well into the hands of domain registrars.

Remember what happened when .xxx hit the scene and became a TLD? Companies had to shell out big bucks to keep their image family friendly by registering their .com, .net, or .org names with a .xxx. Businesses that didn’t register their .xxx domain and fell victim to a fast-acting cybersquatter could face a huge legal battle to keep their business from having their trademark tarnished by being associated with an adult-themed website.  Throw more TLDs into the mix and you can only imagine what kind of fight you’d be in if you had to fight for your business’ .[fill in the blank] – especially for multiple TLDs.

If that weren’t enough, ICANN added another dimension for consideration to domain registrants. The Latin alphabet has company. Under ICANN’s new release of TLDs, domain names can have Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, or other characters. That means your business will have to scour the internet for copycat domain names in different alphabets.

Is that the kind of competition your business can afford?

The FTC, Compliance, and ICANN

The FTC asked ICANN to implement certain safeguards to protect consumers from fraud and scams before opening the new TLD registration period. Safeguards including:

  • Ensure Whois data is accurate in order to verify the identity of those registering TLDs.
  • Fortify their compliance program.
  • Implement a program to identify risks to consumers while evaluating TLDs.

We’ll see how ICANN reacts as the TLD registration process continues to unfold.

If you’re concerned about what new TLDs will do to your online business, speak with an experienced Internet lawyer to help you understand the implications ICANN’s TLD expansion.

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