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Vanity TLDs (vTLD) Approved

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Much talk has been had about the new ‘top level’ domains that were approved by ICANN today in Paris. This ruling will allow companies, groups, and individuals to petition ICANN to create new “Vanity TLDs,” (term coined by David Castello) which in my opinion will end up creating considerable confusion among consumers and huge costs to companies who need to protect their trademarks. This is good news for people who have been working to pass this in an effort to launch new extensions (renewal fees), and it is also good news for .com owners, as the more extensions are created, the more consumers will navigate back to the familiar .com.

Over the past few years, many new extensions have been created – some of which I hadn’t heard of until reading up on this. Included in the list of “newer” but obviously less-used include .pro, .biz, .travel, .mobi, .asia, .jobs, .museum…etc. The entire list of current TLD can be found on ICANN’s website. In terms of usage by consumers, I don’t think there are any websites with these extensions currently in the top 20,000 websites according to Alexa (correct me if I am wrong).

With all the .com branding that’s been done by companies telling consumers to visit their .com website, I highly doubt many will jump at the opportunity to spend upwards of $100,000 to apply for a corporate Vanity TLD (vTLD), and then spend millions of dollars convincing consumers to use it. Sure, some will try it, but if nothing else, it will probably end up watering down their brand and confuse consumers.

Although ICANN is supposedly prohibiting TM-related extensions except for companies that own the TM, companies like Amazon and Apple are almost forced to spend the $100,000 application fee since one could argue that their company name is generic and not protected. Since ICANN plans to auction Vanity TLDs that have multiple bidders, Apple could conceivable pay much more to get .apple so Apple Bank or an apple grower can’t take it.

Here is an example of why using Vanity TLD will pose a problem for companies and even non-trademark related uses. Let’s use Ebay for a second. Sure, it would be cool if they had Art.Ebay, Autographs.Ebay, SportsMemorabilia.Ebay…etc. Great, right? Well, what happens when consumers confusingly type in SportsMemorabiliaEbay.com by mistake? This is going to create hundreds of thousands of additional typos, which will most certainly be grabbed by cybersquatters. While this sucks for Ebay, they are going to have to spend millions of dollars going after these cybersquatters to avoid the traffic run-off. Same thing with any other Vanity TLD. People will assume its .com.

The .com has worked for many years, and it won’t be negatively impacted. These new Vanity TLD will give people the opportunity to buy strong keywords in various extensions, but it won’t likely change web browsing habits. Companies who want to be serious will still use .com, and the values will increase as more people come online.

Viewpoints: Additional TLD Extensions

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There are plenty of people on both sides of the fence regarding the proposal to add various TLD to the domain space. Companies, cities, and other individuals with enough financial backing may be able to apply for their own TLD. The impact on the domain industry, SEO, IP enforcement, TM protection…etc. constituencies will be enormous in some good and bad ways.
To form your own opinion, I invite you to read posts and blogs covering this topic from a few friends in the industry:   Be sure to check out Kevin’s opinion, Mike’s opinion, and Anthony’s blog for more information about this.

Breaking News: CCIN Joins ICANN Business Constituency

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Castello Cities Internet Network, owners and operators of geo websites PalmSprings.com, Nashville.com, WestPalmBeach.com, LagunaBeach.com, Daycare.com, Whisky.com and many other great Internet properties, has been accepted into the ICANN Business Constituency. The Business Constituency is made up of Internet leaders such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Walt Disney, Ebay, and several other prominent companies. This is good news for the domain investment and development community, as CCIN has proven to be a leader in this space.
I had the chance to chat with David today:
EJS: As Chief Operating Officer of CCIN, how do you hope to contribute to the Business Constituency, and what does your company bring to the table?
David Castello:CCIN develops domain names into successful, business entities. One of our priorities is to protect the property rights of professional domainers and developers. The current Bad Faith clause in UDRP arbitration must be maintained and not diluted. If anything, it should be strengthened to put more burden of proof on the Complainant. Over 80% of all UDRP arbitration ends in transferring the domain name. Of course, many of these complaints are totally justified and we are opposed to those who would purposely infringe on another’s trademark. However, we are also opposed to those who may wish to broaden trademark powers to the point where it would infringe on the property rights of generic domain name owners and leave them susceptible to reverse domain name hijacking.
I believe David and his brother Michael have the knowledge, experience and personality that will allow them to transcend the invisible line that often pits domain investors against others in the Internet community. The Castello Brothers’ strong and rationale voice is a big win for the domain investment and development community, and I think it’s great that they are representing us in the Business Constituency.

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