Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reveal Day at ICANN - New Internet Suffixes?

ICANN is opening up new Internet suffixes today, June 13, 2012. They call it "Reveal Day." At their website, they had a video of the press conference in London, but they did not record it, oddly. They still have materials, though, for the public and the media.

There are about 2,000 proposed suffixes that include hobbies, corporate brand names, language and ethnic groups and more. In 2000 and 2004, ICANN offered two "beta test" groups of suffixes which included .travel, .info, .biz and more. These have not been notably popular with the public, who found very quickly that .travel became populated with scam artists and virus-carrying sham-websites. The public has since shown a marked preference for the original 3 suffixes: .com, .org and .edu, or they use a web browser to locate what they want if they do not know the URL.

Petitioners to purchase a new suffix, also known as a top level domain name, face a lengthy process. They must be carefully vetted by ICANN. They answer 50 questions covering their plans for the suffix, their financial health, the support they have for "owning" the name, and more. Petitioners had until May 30 to submit a proposal, which costs $185,000. On June 13, ICANN listed all the received proposals.

There will be months, possibly years of reviews and possibly challenges before proposals are accepted and suffixes are handed out, and available to be used on the Internet. The public will now have 60 days to comment on the proposal. For instance, someone may claim a trademark violation, or that the suffix is offensive.

ICANN has so many proposals (which surprises me, frankly!), that it will review them in groups of about 500. There is a lottery sort of system to decide which proposals are considered first. It could take several years to get to the final group. Besides looking at the financial health of the petitioning company or organization, ICANN will also perform crimimal background checks. They don't want an owner of a top level domain name to become insolvent, or in the unlikely situation that it does, ICANN wants there to be well-thought-out contingency plans. A complete review is expected to take nine months. If there are challenges, a review could take up to 20 months, according to ICANN's estimates.

If multiple bidders seek the same domain name, ICANN encourages the bidders to seek agreement. Once a suffix is approved, the owner of the domain name may sell and register sub-domain names and control their use. They are in charge of procedures to register the servers and track them. So, the winning petitioner may make some money, but they also have to pay ICANN $25,000 more annually to keep the suffix registered. This is a very expensive proposition!

The Washington Post reports that Internet-based companies from Apple,to Zappos applied for these domain names. But also, bricks-and-mortar companies such as Macy's, Wal-Mart and Tiffany's each ponied up $185,000 to apply for consideration. 87 large corporations filed a protest. A few of the protesters, such as Samsung, went ahead and filed for a suffix. Others, such as Coca-Cola and Kelloggs, abstained from filing for domain names (see BBC story here).

You can follow ICANN on Twitter where it appears as ICANN (not surprisingly). Here is a link to the full list of new Top Level Domain names in potentio. The BBC pointed out that more than half the list consists of U.S. corporations. But from a U.S.-centric point of view, that means that nearly half the new Top Level Domains will be non-U.S., 17 of which were from Africa. ICANN is working on making the Internet more international and more welcoming to the world. At the same time, ICANN itself is firmly based in the United States, through an agreement with the United States government, for at least a good while into the future. While the Internet was built in the United States at the beginning, as ARPANet, it has become a truly international utility of great value. This will a very interesting thing to watch develop.

The red curtain decorating this blog post is courtesy of


Marie S. Newman said...

Love the illustration!

Marie S. Newman said...
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