Geo Concerns

FairWinds Partners —  October 21, 2011

We have to come clean about something. Sometimes we make mistakes. It’s rare, but we’re only human. And this particular mistake is one that a lot of very smart, very informed people have been making for some time now. It has to do with country names in new gTLDs.

In the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook, ICANN specifically prohibits applicants from applying for country names as gTLDs – extensions like .USA, .ESPANA, .UNITEDKINGDOM will not be permitted. However, we have also learned that country names and two-character country codes (like .JP for Japan; see the full list here) will also not be permitted as second-level domains.

This restriction, which is referenced in Question 22 in the New gTLD Application, actually dates back to 2007, when ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) published its “Principles Regarding New gTLDs”. Specifically, the GAC states, “Applicant registries for new gTLD should pledge to…Adopt, before the new gTLD is introduced, appropriate procedures for blocking, at no cost and upon demand of governments, public authorities or IGO, names with national or geographic significance at the second level of any new gTLD.”

So what does that mean? It means we were mistaken – or rather, not entirely correct – in our “International Security” post when we postulated that branded gTLDs will allow companies to move away from ccTLD domains and toward a Country.Brand naming convention. We had suggested that IBM, for example, could swap out its Austrian IBM.at domain for Austria.IBM. But this was not accurate. Instead, IBM could use a domain like Austria.Shop.IBM, Austria.Europe.IBM or AT.Europe.IBM.

So why do we say we were “not entirely correct”? Because fortunately, this restriction is not permanent, per se. New gTLD applicants can opt to follow the process that .INFO used to “release” geographic and country name domains at the second level. In their response to Question 22, applicants can include their plans for working with the GAC to get these names released. Especially for brands who plan to run a closed registry and not sell domain names to the public, the process of working with the GAC should not be too painful.

We apologize for failing to mention this in our “International Security” post, but hopefully this clears up some questions that readers have about what domain names they can use to the “left of the dot”.