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Application window open for top-level domain names

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A new spate of options for generic top-level domain names opened in January when Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers began taking applications for new names.

Although local experts say applying will likely only appeal to large corporations, they say Ozarks companies still need to be keyed in to the issue, because once the new domains, or gTLDs, are announced, the race will be on for second-tier users to stake their claims.

Application opportunity
Interested parties have through April 12 to apply to create new gTLDs, and the end result will be that Internet users will encounter domain names that go well beyond the now-standard .com, .biz and .edu domains they are now accustomed to seeing.

ICANN officials expect it to take between nine and 20 months to evaluate the applications, so it likely will be 2013 before any changes appear on Google searches.

And because the process of creating a gTLD is neither simple nor inexpensive, Shannon McMurtrey, president of McMurtrey/Whitaker & Associates Inc., said creating gTLDs will likely appeal primarily to large corporations.

“Some of the larger, global brands will probably do it,” said McMurtrey, whose company is engaged in e-commerce development. “It’s something that the larger businesses have wanted. ICANN has done a pretty good job over the years of listening to all its different constituents, and definitely business makes up a big part of that.”

While he sees the move as positive, McMurtrey said the new domain names will bring new challenges.

“Generic domains are basically a way to foster competition, to continue innovation in the domain-name market,” McMurtrey said.

The traditional top-level domains “have served the purpose well, but as more and more companies start branding themselves online, there’s an increased demand for customization,” he added.

Domain dominance
Companies, governments and other organizations now may apply for the option of using virtually any word or phrase, even a brand, as a domain name — .disney or .coke, for instance. But that’s just the launching point. Generic domain names in the food category alone, for example, could include .food, .restaurant, .dining, .farmersmarket, .snacks and so on.

The hurdle of choosing from a multitude of choices aside, the ICANN guidebook for applicants is 349 pages long, and the application fee alone is $185,000.

ICANN points to several benefits of running a gTLD, such as control over the domain name, including security and setting the price for registrants who want to use the domains. It also carries a much higher level of responsibility than simply registering a second-tier .com name.

According to ICANN.org, applying for a new gTLD is essentially applying to run registry businesses, as successful applicants will be responsible for all domain names registered in the gTLD – just as Verisign is responsible for domain names in the .com top-level domain.

Attorney Richard Schnake, a partner at Neale & Newman LLP, is doubtful that anyone in Springfield will want to take on the task.

“Essentially, if you’re going to register a top-level domain like .food or .restaurant, you’re going to be running an Internet service, and the cost of it is immense. I don’t know that anyone in Springfield will want to do that.”

Still, local business owners will want to pay attention, because just as many have done in the .com realm, they’ll want to secure second-tier domain names within the new gTLDs.

“Once ICANN publishes the list of new gTLDs that have been applied for, I would suggest our local business owners take a look at that list and see if they have one they want to claim,” said Alison George, an associate at Neale & Newman.

According to ICANN, the list of gTLD names applied for will be made public May 1.

On the offensive
Schnake and George agreed that while there are laws in place to protect trademarks, just one keystroke can make a huge difference – and with new gTLDs, it will be more challenging for companies to make sure their names aren’t being misused.

Schnake recalled a time he wanted to go to the White House Web site to do some research.

“I typed WhiteHouse.com, and it pulled up the most blatant porn site, because it was supposed to be .gov … boy, did I get a surprise,” he said. WhiteHouse.com is now directed to a site about college scholarships and financial aid.

Even companies that don’t want to apply for gTLDs will need to be vigilant when it comes to name registration in the new domains.

“You have a duty to police your mark,” George said. “This is going to increase the environment you have to police. An offensive strategy is to start registering domains in the new (top-level domains) that you think are relative. Sign up for monitoring services. I think both of those would be within fairly reasonable budget for most local businesses.”

Schnake said such monitoring services, which comb the Internet for trademark and name infringements, typically cost between $200 and $1,000 a year.

Marketing is another strong reason to explore adding domains in the new gTLDs, as registering new names helps optimize search results.

“You’re going to be competing with billions more Web sites that are similar to yours. Make sure your name comes up first in a Google search,” George said.

Despite the confusion that may initially follow the release of the new domain names, Schnake thinks more specific gTLDs are ultimately good for business owners.

“I still think it could be a very positive thing, because it will allow a business owner to target the audience that the owner wants to reach. (For) a restaurant, a bank, a clothing store, a toy store, you can narrow down the focus – .com is all commercial businesses,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]

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