There are only a couple of weeks left until Christmas! That sentence usually fills me with dread, apart from the obvious annoyance of those proudly stating the obvious - that it actually serves a purpose – it’s a call to action and reminds you to prepare. For many years I’ve been guilty of leaving things until the last minute and that’s usually to my detriment. I invariably miss out on the latest must have Christmas toy for my daughter and end up having to pay much more than expected for plane tickets to visit my parents. Ultimately, all of these results in a stressed, rushed and sometimes miserable festive period with little time to relax. This year however, I’ve prepared well in advance. I’m hoping that this preparation will pay off in the weeks leading up to Christmas, no more rushing around after work or during lunch, no lengthy queuing in crowds of shoppers and ultimately less impact on my bank balance. I feel that I am in control and can sit back and relax a bit more.
The New gTLD program represents the same issues although on a much larger scale. There is a date looming in the distance, that date signifies the biggest change to the Internet since its inception. There won’t be global celebrations and synchronized firework displays (although I suspect there will be a few launch parties here and there). What we will see though is the beginning of a process; one that will extend well into 2014 in a continuous line of gTLD launches. If ICANN intends to allow subsequent application rounds this could be a never ending cycle.
One thing is clear - no brand will remain unaffected in the New gTLD landscape and preparation is key.
When ICANN starts to delegate new gTLDs into the root, at an anticipated rate of 20 gTLDs per week, in the second quarter of 2013, those that have prepared and developed their strategy for facing this internet liberalization will be in a better position than those that have not. ICANN has been known to miss deadlines and the new gTLD program has been fraught with difficulties and setbacks but the new CEO is trying to change all that. At present, everyone is working towards the new timeline announced at the ICANN meeting in Toronto a few weeks ago. For brand owners, the timeline represents key action dates and a call to action.
The first key date in the timeline is early December 2012, that’s when we will know the prioritization draw of the applications. In other words, we will know which gTLDs will potentially be launched first. This key piece of data will assist in launch planning for registrars and will also allow brand owners to adapt the framework of their domain strategy accordingly.
March 2013 should also figure heavily as ICANN has extended the objection period and, as NetNames stressed a few weeks ago, it is imperative that you review the list of TLD applications and assess whether any applications will have an impact on your existing or future brand strategy. Many of the gTLD applications submitted are based on a Single Registrant/Single User (SRSU) model. This means that only the applicant of the gTLD may register second-level domains beneath it. The risk here is that for purely generic terms in your industry vertical your business may not be able to operate or own domains beneath it, thus cutting off a whole new digital environment and opportunity for your brand. Other gTLD applications are based on an open model where anyone may register domains, just like .com operates today. This particular model can also pose a potential risk if unregulated, by running a simple check those terms will become apparent, especially for those operating in the financial or online gambling sector . The chart below has separated applications by industry sector to help assess the 1,930 applications in an easy manner. Please also contact your NetNames account manager for access to a filterable database of applications.
(Community-related visualization of new gTLDs - download document (PDF).)
It’s not all about risks though; the list also represents an opportunity for brands, and how they should approach customer outreach and content delivery. NetNames USA’s Senior Vice President, Luge Pravda illustrated in a blog post a few weeks ago - the possibilities could be endless. In order to benefit from this monumental change, brands must start contemplating the impact of all the new extensions on their existing domain strategy.
Executed correctly, your strategy should shift from defensive domain registrations to owning digital domain assets that can demonstrate measurable return on investment. In some cases, brand owners may wish to switch from domain registration to infringement monitoring and enforcement or a mixture of both, it is important that you partner with experts that recognize that one size does not fit all. Partnering with NetNames to help you navigate this uncertainty will most definitely keep you one step ahead.
It is important to highlight that delegation does not mean launch, so whilst your planning is on-going so is that of the applicants. Many large volume applicants are looking at inventive ways to make the liberalization less intrusive and onerous on brands holders. There are various models that will allow brands to block large numbers of gTLD strings without the need to register and operate domains. This model was first used by the .xxx registry operator ICM and proved to be popular and fair. For some applicants the main focus is getting rights protection mechanisms in place and they are not in any rush to launch their gTLDs, so don’t expect 20 new gTLDs per week at the start.
As with any industry change or product launch many try to capitalize on the uncertainty in a market by offering services before they are available. Registrars offering early registration in new gTLDs are simply trying to mislead IP rights holders and should be avoided at all costs.– They can neither guarantee registration or priority in a launch of a gTLD that is yet to be approved that they are yet to be accredited to offer.
At the time of writing there are only 201 days left until the potential launch of new gTLDs, so start your planning now and come 1 June 2013 you’ll be able to relax knowing you have everything in place regardless of what gTLDs come first.
Written by Ben Anderson, Head of new gTLD products at NetNames
19 November 2012