Hurricane.Sandy: What Hurricane Preparations Can Teach Us about New gTLDs

FairWinds Partners —  October 29, 2012

If you’re anywhere near the East Coast of the U.S. like we are at FairWinds, then you’re likely in the throes of Hurricane Sandy right now. We closed our Washington, DC office and had our employees work from home today – but that didn’t stop us from thinking about new gTLDs.

At this point in the New gTLD Program, applicants are waiting on a few key milestones. They are waiting to see if their applications receive an Early Warning from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) when it issues them on November 20, waiting to see if they have to respond to any Clarifying Questions, waiting to see if they end up in contention with any other applications, and waiting for ICANN’s Prioritization Drawing to take place sometime in December.

But once these events and announcements go by, new gTLD applicants will go into a much longer period of waiting. This time, they will be waiting for ICANN to publish the first results of Initial Evaluation. Once that takes place, many new gTLD applications will be on the fast track to being delegated and officially launching – some as soon as the April or May 2013, according to ICANN’s latest timeline.

Here on the East Coast, we spent the last four days or so waiting for Hurricane Sandy. But we were not waiting idly. We went out and stocked up on supplies like non-perishable food and toilet paper, we put new batteries in our flashlights, and we tied down our outdoor furniture and maybe even stacked a few sandbags if we’re in an area prone to flooding.

So what does all that have to do with gTLDs? Well, like those of us on the East Coast who spent the last few days preparing for the hurricane, new gTLD applicants should spend the lull between December and April to really prepare for the rapidly approaching next phase of the New gTLD Program – not because the introduction of new gTLDs will be a disaster, but because like any major event, new gTLDs will require adequate planning and preparation. This is especially true for brand owners who applied for gTLDs, because they will have to get members from various departments, including Marketing, Legal, IT/Digital and Business, on board sooner than later in order to successfully launch their new gTLD when their turn comes.

So what are some lessons that brand owners and other new gTLD applicants can learn from Hurricane Sandy preparation? Here are just a few:

1. Taking Stock of Your Supplies: Cleaning Up Your Existing Domain Name Portfolio

When new gTLDs launch, businesses will inevitably need to register new domain names, both to protect their brands and trademarks and to capitalize on new marketing and promotional opportunities. A good way for brand owners to prepare for the newly expanded space is to make sure that their existing domain name portfolio and domain name registration strategy are in the best shape possible. Optimizing its existing domain name portfolio can free up valuable budget for new domain name registrations by cutting defunct domain names, while establishing a solid domain name registration strategy can ensure that the company only registers domain names that add value to its business.

2. Putting New Batteries in the Flashlights: Developing a Business Strategy for Your New gTLD

When the power goes out, we rely on flashlights to guide us through our homes so we avoid tripping over things like power chords or the dog. Similarly, a well-developed Business Strategy can help guide a company in utilizing its new gTLD. What exactly do we mean by Business Strategy? A new gTLD Business Strategy is a company’s comprehensive plan for using its gTLD as a powerful asset to expand upon its existing marketing, consumer engagement, and other digital brand promotion and protection efforts, while maintaining compliance with ICANN policies.

3. Tying Down the Patio Furniture and Stacking Sandbags: Developing a Strategy to Protect Your Brands and Trademarks in New gTLDs

A third important preparatory step for brand owners is to develop a strategy for protecting their brands and trademarks against cybersquatting and infringement in new gTLDs. This will involve prioritizing the hundreds of new “open” or unrestricted gTLDs that launch. Once a company has determined which gTLDs are the highest priority, it must decide which terms and phrases to register at the second level, either during the Sunrise registration period or early during the Landrush phase.

The above tips are just a few ways that brand owners and other new gTLD applicants can begin to prepare for the imminent launch of new gTLDs. In the meantime, we hope everyone on the East Coast of the U.S. stays warm, dry, and safe.