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Use Caution When Updating Whois Information

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Mike Berkens wrote an important post today about keeping your Whois information current and updated. ICANN regulations require that Whois information is accurate, and if the information isn’t accurate, there is a chance that your domain name could possibly be taken. There are also many legal reasons to do so, which Mike outlines in his post. It just makes sense to keep your information updated, and if you are worried about spam emails or privacy, just buy the privacy guard.
In this vein, I think it’s also important to note that some UDRP panels have ruled that a change in registration information can be seen as a brand new registration. One recent case (although it didn’t really impact the decision) was on the BME.com case, which the respondent lost. The respondent had changed his Whois information (between his own entities), and they still cited this changing Whois information.
In addition to this issue, Godaddy also seems to still lock domain names for 60 days when the Whois information is updated.   While this can usually be remedied somewhat quickly if you contact them, it is a nuisance.
Yes, maintaining your valid Whois information is most definitely important – especially if a signficant event has impacted it (ended partnership, bankruptcy, company formation, divorce…etc).   However, keep in mind that changing your Whois information could put your domain name at risk depending on who is monitoring your Whois listing.

Adapting to the Changing Internet Landscape

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Back from a short trip to the beach. I’ve been reading quite a bit on the new vanity TLDs, and the best conclusion I can come to is that nobody really knows for certain how things will play out. Neither the people who are vociferously stating that .com will always be king (myself included), nor those who are saying that new extensions will cause major sweeping changes to the Internet, really know for sure whether their opinions will be accurate.
What is for sure is that some people will take a big financial risk with these new extensions and some people will remain on the sidelines. In five years, there will be some obvious winners and there will be some obvious losers, but the answers will not be seen over night. I am eagerly observing from the sidelines for now, observing what my friends are doing, getting ready to make changes to my business model if they are necessary. Change is essential to growth, and being able to adapt to industry changes is fundamental.
The domain industry has changed quite a bit, even in the five years that I’ve been involved in the industry. The one constant thing is that the people who are able to adapt to the changes and work within the new parameters are those who are successful. While my thinking about .com may be inaccurate, I (and others) will still manage to do well if we are able to notice changes quickly, and are able to adapt to these changes rapidly. Just because I didn’t buy my first domain names in 1995 doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to be successful. I found the industry later than many, but I learned as much as I could, took some risks and the rest is history.
It is great to see all the dialog about the new extensions on domain forums, blogs, and other news outlets. We are at a time of major change in the domain industry and in the history of the Internet. If you are reading this blog and other domain resources, it is likely that you realize how important this time is for all of us. Pay attention to the things going on in the industry, watch the industry veterans and media companies to learn about their plans, and invest wisely. You don’t have to be a trendsetter to make money, but you have to be able to adapt to the changes to avoid becoming obsolete.

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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