Land rush for domain names

A host of new domain names are going up on the internet, with unintended consequences:

There’s been a scramble to snap up domain names for the Internet’s newest designation — .xxx — but not necessarily from those you’d expect. Adult sites have reserved their spot in the newly labeled section of the Web, but so have companies, charities, celebrities and politicians.

Try “barackobama.xxx,” “angelinajolie.xxx” or “redcross.xxx” and you’ll find yourself faced with a black screen with gray type stating: “This domain has been reserved from registration.” In other words, someone’s made sure those brand names are protected from the association with porn.

Companies, the rich and famous and regulators in Washington now are worried that the rush to defensively buy Web addresses will only worsen — and grow more costly — as the organization in charge of doling out real estate on the Internet prepares to unleash an infinite number of Web suffixes to add to the familiar .com, .net and .edu. Some experts say the move will change the landscape of the Internet forever.

In January, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit association tasked with managing the Internet’s addresses, known as domain names, will begin taking applications from anyone with $185,000 and a desire to reserve their own suffix on the Web. The group oversaw the launch of .xxx last week. Coming after ICANN’s review process could be .god, .abortion, .sex and .georgetown, as well as thousands of others. .  . .

The expansion of suffixes may also compel anyone with a brand name to buy multiple Web addresses to protect its image and prevent customers from being tricked by artfully misspelled sites. ICANN, for instance, handed over .xxx to ICM Registry, which has been charging $200 to trademark holders for each Web address they want to reserve.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, has sent letters to Congress criticizing the rollout of the domain names for lacking transparency — and for the potential cost. Besides buying Web sites to prevent themselves from being associated with a .xxx or a .sex suffix, companies may have to fork over $185,000 to ICANN, plus legal fees, to control a suffix of their own. Plus they would have to maintain useless domains at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 annually, the NRF said.

“It’s a little bit like the Oklahoma land rush,” said Mallory Duncan, NRF general counsel. “You come in now and pay a quarter of a million dollars or forever hold your peace. That’s not a prudent way to run a business.”

via ICANN is ready for battle over expansion of Web suffixes – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    Universities in Wisconsin are buying up .xxx domains as well, in order to protect the schools’ brands (sports teams, etc.). They figure this is cheaper than taking .xxx sites to court.

  • Tom Hering

    Universities in Wisconsin are buying up .xxx domains as well, in order to protect the schools’ brands (sports teams, etc.). They figure this is cheaper than taking .xxx sites to court.

  • Tom Hering

    Are any Christians taking preemptive action? vatican.xxx … billygraham.xxx … geneveith.xxx. :-O

  • Tom Hering

    Are any Christians taking preemptive action? vatican.xxx … billygraham.xxx … geneveith.xxx. :-O

  • WebMonk

    That spokesman for the NRF is full of it. This is nothing new at all – brands have always had to purchase their names on the Internet to protect them – first were the .com, .net, and .org, and then there were the country suffixes such as .us, .cn, etc. These are just a couple more, but with the added media pizzazz of having pornographic associations.

    Makes a nice, dramatic story. Sort of. Well, maybe not really. Maybe an interesting “Huh, well whatdaya know,” story.

  • WebMonk

    That spokesman for the NRF is full of it. This is nothing new at all – brands have always had to purchase their names on the Internet to protect them – first were the .com, .net, and .org, and then there were the country suffixes such as .us, .cn, etc. These are just a couple more, but with the added media pizzazz of having pornographic associations.

    Makes a nice, dramatic story. Sort of. Well, maybe not really. Maybe an interesting “Huh, well whatdaya know,” story.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @2
    Tom, I would expect anybody with tech savvy people working for them is doing so. But, umm… I am not willing to play Russian Roulette to find out.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @2
    Tom, I would expect anybody with tech savvy people working for them is doing so. But, umm… I am not willing to play Russian Roulette to find out.

  • Chet

    “These are just a couple more”

    Did you read the entire article? The point is that companies with $185,000 can get their own suffix (TLD), this would then compel trademark holders to buy the domain with that suffix as well.

    Not only do they need to buy the domain to protect the trademark, they need to do it to prevent “artfully misspelled sites” from tricking customers.

    These two new suffixes are just the first in an explosion of new ones.

  • Chet

    “These are just a couple more”

    Did you read the entire article? The point is that companies with $185,000 can get their own suffix (TLD), this would then compel trademark holders to buy the domain with that suffix as well.

    Not only do they need to buy the domain to protect the trademark, they need to do it to prevent “artfully misspelled sites” from tricking customers.

    These two new suffixes are just the first in an explosion of new ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The domain name system is going down the crapper.
    We need to figure out a different way of associating web sites with the entities that own them. Maybe something more like a telephone directory, where you can look up a business (or whatever) by name (like the white pages) or by business type (like the yellow pages) and find the link to its webpage.

    There could even be competing directory services, just like in the phone book world.

    Actually, Google and Bing and Yahoo already serve as pretty good directories, don’t they? Do we really even need domain names these days?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The domain name system is going down the crapper.
    We need to figure out a different way of associating web sites with the entities that own them. Maybe something more like a telephone directory, where you can look up a business (or whatever) by name (like the white pages) or by business type (like the yellow pages) and find the link to its webpage.

    There could even be competing directory services, just like in the phone book world.

    Actually, Google and Bing and Yahoo already serve as pretty good directories, don’t they? Do we really even need domain names these days?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Wait, what? RedCross.xxx? Really? Was that likely to be an issue? What … what were people … man, I don’t want to know, do I?

    WebMonk (@3), you’re kind of overreacting in accusing others of overreacting. As Chet points out (@4), this does, in theory, represent an infinite — and vastly more expansive — expansion of the TLD system, one in which the sky’s kind of the limit when it comes to intellectual-property protection.

    But note that I said “in theory”. It is an application process, after all. I have no idea how ICANN is going to handle such applications — do they have to pass a smell test, or does everyone with a few hundred thousand dollars get whatever ridiculous TLD they dream up? I mean, having a .angelinajolie domain name just seems … pointless.

    That said, I really don’t see this being all that much of a problem for most people. ICANN has been dribbling out domain names for well over a decade, but most people still never come into contact with anything beyond the old standbys: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, and the various country-based ones.

    Maybe I’m a bit more savvy about it than the average person, but when I see .biz in a domain name, I know it’s a B-grade site, at best. It’s a sign that someone else already has better branding — and almost certainly more traffic — over at the equivalent .com domain.

    So whatever. Wealthy celebrities and giant corporations who thrive on tightly controlled PR (and whose legal and marketing teams need something to occupy their time) will likely play these games, because it just might be cheaper for them to do it. But most companies (and people) won’t. And most of these new TLDs, should they ever come into existence, will be complete busts that completely fail to have any effect on the average person.

    Just like the already extant .jobs, .museum, and .travel are today.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Wait, what? RedCross.xxx? Really? Was that likely to be an issue? What … what were people … man, I don’t want to know, do I?

    WebMonk (@3), you’re kind of overreacting in accusing others of overreacting. As Chet points out (@4), this does, in theory, represent an infinite — and vastly more expansive — expansion of the TLD system, one in which the sky’s kind of the limit when it comes to intellectual-property protection.

    But note that I said “in theory”. It is an application process, after all. I have no idea how ICANN is going to handle such applications — do they have to pass a smell test, or does everyone with a few hundred thousand dollars get whatever ridiculous TLD they dream up? I mean, having a .angelinajolie domain name just seems … pointless.

    That said, I really don’t see this being all that much of a problem for most people. ICANN has been dribbling out domain names for well over a decade, but most people still never come into contact with anything beyond the old standbys: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, and the various country-based ones.

    Maybe I’m a bit more savvy about it than the average person, but when I see .biz in a domain name, I know it’s a B-grade site, at best. It’s a sign that someone else already has better branding — and almost certainly more traffic — over at the equivalent .com domain.

    So whatever. Wealthy celebrities and giant corporations who thrive on tightly controlled PR (and whose legal and marketing teams need something to occupy their time) will likely play these games, because it just might be cheaper for them to do it. But most companies (and people) won’t. And most of these new TLDs, should they ever come into existence, will be complete busts that completely fail to have any effect on the average person.

    Just like the already extant .jobs, .museum, and .travel are today.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Mike (@5), so what you’re saying is that you want to hand the ability to find Web pages over to a handful of powerful gatekeeper corporations like Google and Microsoft?

    And you want to do this to solve … what problem, exactly?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Mike (@5), so what you’re saying is that you want to hand the ability to find Web pages over to a handful of powerful gatekeeper corporations like Google and Microsoft?

    And you want to do this to solve … what problem, exactly?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    We’ve already handed the ability to find web pages over to the likes of Google and Yahoo. Who, in their right mind, tries to find a particular website by typing in domain names, hoping to guess the right one?

    No problem to be solved, because it’s already been solved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    We’ve already handed the ability to find web pages over to the likes of Google and Yahoo. Who, in their right mind, tries to find a particular website by typing in domain names, hoping to guess the right one?

    No problem to be solved, because it’s already been solved.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Mike (@8), I don’t think you’re considering all the possibilities here.

    Who, in their right mind, tries to find a particular website by typing in domain names, hoping to guess the right one?

    Um, people who are looking at a text ad? Or an ad on TV? Or are listening to someone direct them to a website from a radio program or podcast?

    Sure, people don’t often completely guess a domain name without some kind of foreknowledge, but they do often type in a domain name directly.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Mike (@8), I don’t think you’re considering all the possibilities here.

    Who, in their right mind, tries to find a particular website by typing in domain names, hoping to guess the right one?

    Um, people who are looking at a text ad? Or an ad on TV? Or are listening to someone direct them to a website from a radio program or podcast?

    Sure, people don’t often completely guess a domain name without some kind of foreknowledge, but they do often type in a domain name directly.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, tODD, I don’t see any real difference between pictures.angelinajolie.com and pictures.angelinajolie

    I didn’t mean to imply that there were only a few (numerically) new names out there for people to fight over, but that there aren’t really anything fundamentally new being offered in this sale.

    Yes, some companies will need to add yet another couple variations to their collection of URLs, but that’s nothing that is really any different than what has happened in the past several times.

    99% of people are still going to stick with the “regular” .com address.

    It’s an interesting thing (at least to me and other techie people) but hardly anything that is groundbreaking.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, tODD, I don’t see any real difference between pictures.angelinajolie.com and pictures.angelinajolie

    I didn’t mean to imply that there were only a few (numerically) new names out there for people to fight over, but that there aren’t really anything fundamentally new being offered in this sale.

    Yes, some companies will need to add yet another couple variations to their collection of URLs, but that’s nothing that is really any different than what has happened in the past several times.

    99% of people are still going to stick with the “regular” .com address.

    It’s an interesting thing (at least to me and other techie people) but hardly anything that is groundbreaking.

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