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.”