There’s no place for dotRome

Stuart Fuller

Whilst registration numbers for dotLondon, dotParis and dotNYC continue to grow, one major European city that’s on the outside looking in is Rome. It isn’t that nobody thought of applying, it’s more that nobody could agree whether to support it or not.

DotRoma was one of the new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) announced by ICANN at its reveal event in London back in June 2012. But while European capital cities London, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Moscow, Brussels, Vienna and Berlin have all waved the flag in the new program so far, Rome’s application has been sitting gathering dust.

Top Level Domain Holdings – a registry – received notification in September 2013 that the gTLD had not passed the Initial Evaluation stage in the launch process. ICANN confirmed to the registry that:

“The required documentation of support or non-objection was either not provided or did not meet the criteria [in] the Applicant Guidebook.”

All GeoTLDs needed the full support of the respective local governmental bodies. So London and New York’s applications, for instance, were backed by their respective mayor’s offices. Roma claimed that it would have the backing once it passed the Initial Evaluation, whereas ICANN’s rule stated clearly that this approval was required to pass Initial Evaluation. TLD Holdings could have taken the process to Extended Evaluation, but with mounting pressure from the Italian Governmental Advisory Committee member, it decided to withdraw the application.

Spending a few days in the city this week, I’ve seen no evidence that the new gTLD program has made it this far south in Europe. The majority of domain names used in advertising, billboards or on TV have been dotCom and dotIT, with a small number of dotEUs. I’m always pleased to see organizations adopt a new suffix and actively use it, but I couldn’t see a single example of one in and around the city. 

However, one new gTLD registry based in Rome will see a number of gTLDs eventually go live. The Pontifical Council for Social Communication, based in the Vatican and under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, was set up to explore how the messages of the Catholic Church could be adapted to (and adopted in) the digital world. The use of new gTLDs is one of its initiatives; back in 2011, it applied for four suffixes representing the word ‘Catholic’ in four languages – English, Arabic, Chinese and Russian – which should all be launched in the next 12 months.

With voices now getting louder on a second round, it’ll be interesting to see whether Rome gets its own GeoTLD this time around. Whilst registration numbers in all of the major GeoTLDs have been encouraging, usage is still the real measure of success – both individually and collectively as a program. That may sway the local government to continue in its philosophy of not backing an application. I hope not.