The first new gTLD catches the market unawares

It's been years in the making, courting controversy at every stage, but last week the first new gTLD quietly moved from being a pipedream to reality.  Dotshabaka, the Arabic word for ‘internet’ opened the door for the whole new gTLD programme when it welcomed in trademark sunrise applications.

The registry behind the new gTLD had always been quietly confident that they would be the first new gTLD to launch, even though they weren’t the first name in the ICANN priority draw list.  However, they were one of the first to pass through all of the stringent checkpoints in the application procedure and were one of the four TLDs delegated into the root zone of the internet two weeks ago by IANA.

“It's with great pleasure that I can finally say that we are the first new gTLD Registry Operator to commence its Sunrise Period! I’m truly excited about taking this TLD to the Arabic speaking world and revolutionising their Internet experience.” Quoted dotshabaka’s General Manager Yasmin Omer when announcing the opening of the Sunrise Trademark phase on Friday.

I think many of us expected a great deal more fanfare to welcome the first arrival of the brave new internet world, and had felt that one of the eleven Donuts TLDs would be breaking the virgin ground.  But it seemed we were all wrong and Dotshabaka will have its place in the history books.

Despite its quiet arrival, the anticipation for the suffix has been building in the Arab world.  Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) have the potential to be huge, and what better way to get the momentum going by launching a local version of one of the most recognised words in the developing world. Over half of the world’s population read and write in languages that do not use a typical ASCII keyboard and a number of the new gTLD applicants are targeting this demographic within the new gTLD programme.  In their release note they state that the domain name will be “the catalyst for change for Arabic Internet users allowing for a truly international Internet experience.  Domain name owners will be signing up for a cause and becoming part of the movement to empower the Arabic language on the Internet.”

The Dotshabaka Sunrise period will run for 60 days until the 29th December, followed by a 30 day Landrush period until the 31st January.  General availability will then commence on the 4th February 2014.

The challenge now is to get registrations.  It is understood that there is only a small number of IDN trademarks held within the Trademark Clearinghouse (the number of Arabic variants is unknown). As the Trademark Sunrise period runs until the end of December and is not on a first-come first-serve basis there is still time to submit IDN trademarks to the TMCH to take advantage of the first gTLD launch.

The tipping point for the success of the domain will be adoption by large organisations and this is where the registry will have their work cut out, educating potential adopters and Internet users in the coming weeks. But we applaud Dotshabaka for achieving their objective of being the first new gTLD to be open for business.

Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications