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Multi-national corporations interested in the Chinese market – companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, American Express and Nike – have websites in the Chinese country-code top-level domain, .CN.  Now, they can saturate the world’s largest  market even further.

For the first time in the history of the Internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the domain name system, is allowing top-level domains (TLDs) other than country codes in non-Roman script. Applications were submitted for 116 so-called Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), meaning the Web soon will include TLDs in Chinese, Japanese and South Korean characters, Perso-Arabic, Hindi, and Cyrillic. The incorporation of these TLDs has already begun.

It’s time for American businesses to take notice, and consider if they should have a presence in this space.

Chinese-character TLDs offer Western businesses a way to tap into the vast Chinese consumer market in an organic and culturally adaptive way.

在线 (.ONLINE) and  .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) opened to the public at the end of April and broke registration records within an hour of going live, according to the owner/operator of the two TLDs. Today, according to ICANN’s publicly available zone file data, the TLDs are in fifth and 15th place, among more than 100 new top-level domains, with website registrations of 33,838 and 15,580, respectively.

The Chinese State Commission for Public Sector Reform, having advocated for internationalized domain names for many years, is now set to reap the fruits of its efforts. As the applicant for .政务 (GOVERNMENT) and .公益(PUBLIC INTEREST), the reform office issued a directive two years ago encouraging government agencies and public interest organizations to register websites in the common domains of .政务.CN (GOVERNMENT) and “.公益.CN (.PUBLIC INTEREST) to acclimate the Chinese people to the use of Chinese character domains.

In March, the central government went a step further, mandating the use of Chinese-character TLDs for local governments, according to official documents. So, it comes as no surprise that the Chinese government to date has registered 20,452 domain names within the .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) IDNs.

Abiding by the central government’s directives is good business policy in China, as it marks a company as politically correct and, therefore, more likely to achieve economic success. The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, for example, is among the first wave of corporations to adapt to this changing Internet landscape. In addition to its current domain portfolio of 2,000-plus domain names, Alibaba has just acquired some of its primary brands – 阿里巴巴(Alibaba), 淘宝(TaoBao), 天猫(TMall) and 支付宝(AliPay) – in Chinese characters under the .在线 (.ONLINE), .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE), and .移动(.MOBILE) IDNs.  Vancl.com, an Alibaba competitor in the Chinese e-commerce battlefield, also has begun using its Chinese domain 凡客 within the .在线(.ONLINE) IDN.

Interest in .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE) is not limited to the Chinese government and domestic businesses. Multinationals based in other countries also are getting in on the act. ICANN records show that a number of companies registered their trademarks through registrars based in the U.S. and Europe. Microsoft, for example, registered its “Bing” and “Windows” brands in Chinese characters within .在线 (.ONLINE) and .中文网 (.CHINESEWEBSITE). Twitter registered “Tweet” and “Vine” within 在线 (.ONLINE), even though the central government has blocked Twitter in mainland China. Google also registered its “gmail”, “chrome” and “YouTube” trademarks within the two IDNs.

Given the size of the global Chinese-speaking population and the huge market it represents, global corporations will distinguish themselves by acquiring an Internet asset in Chinese character domain names. As new Chinese IDN adoption and usage spreads, led by both government and business, Chinese consumers will likely follow. That, in turn, will increase public trust in the new extensions, leading to more widespread use.

In the short term, based on the investment by the Chinese Government, its directive to use these sites, and the prevalence of cybersquatters, who may rush to register popular brand names in Chinese-language TLDs (as they have in other TLDs), it makes sense for businesses to register their brand names first in the Chinese IDNs. As more data on user adoption become available, global corporations will have to begin exploring the pros and cons of using their new IDN domain names for advertising, marketing, and other content.

It may not be time to forgo .CN, but if a brand has or desires a presence in Chinese markets, new IDN TLDs are worth serious consideration.

Read the original article here.

Undeterred by a delayed train, Thomas O’Toole of Bloomberg BNA moderated a dynamic Beyond the Dot Roundtable discussion for highly regulated industries and new gTLDs at Guardian Life Insurance in New York City last week.

From the moment O’Toole posed his first question to the moment he wrapped up the discussion around noon, more than 30 participants engaged in a fast-paced discussion about a range of issues, including consumer behavior, regulation, and Internet governance.

Attending the event were representatives from brand gTLD applicants and non-applicants, generic gTLD applicants, regulators, and academics.

The session was off-the-record to encourage candid discussion about potentially sensitive topics, but we are able to share some key highlights.

During the first session entitled, “The Brave New World”, Rashi Rai, Associate Director of IT Strategy and Innovation at Merck (which applied for .MSD, .MERCK and .MERCKMSD) urged brand applicants not to think of gTLDs simply as a defensive “land grab” but more holistically in relation to users, mobile adoption, and search behavior.

The second session, “Plan for Opportunity”, focused more on regulatory issues in new gTLDs and in relation to Internet governance in general. Laureen Kapin, Counsel for International Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, explained the FTC’s involvement in the new gTLDs as one that focused on safeguarding consumers. In particular, for new gTLDs that are associated with market sectors that have regulated entry requirements, the FTC has advocated for “verification and validation of registrants’ credentials” to protect consumers and protect the credibility of generic TLDs in this arena so that internet users can be secure in the folks they are doing business with.” Lawrence J. White, Robert Kavesh Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business, presented an overview of the ICANN governance proposal he co-authored as the U.S. hands over control of IANA functions to ICANN.

“This was one of the first times – that I know of – that brand owners in these regulated industries have had the opportunity to discuss their ideas and concerns with government officials and even applicants of generic TLDs like .BANK and .HEALTH in such an open manner. For the New gTLD Program to be successful for brands and, indeed, everyone, more discussions like this are needed,” said FairWinds Vice President for Policy and External Relations Michelle Sara King.

To receive updates on the next Beyond the Dot event. sign-up here.

By Jingwei Wang and Madeline Hurley    

The average Internet user is surely familiar with that twinge of annoyance felt when confronted by a red error message after typing an incorrect email address or password. But annoyance could turn to technologically fueled rage if email addresses containing new top-level domains (TLDs) are incompatible with the sites users are trying to access.

The Internet community is predicting a new age of innovation with the advent of 1,400 new TLDs composed of brand names, geographic locations, and generic terms – such as .WALMART, .LONDON, or .TATTOO. In addition to opening up vast tracts of Internet real estate where the public and businesses will be able to buy, sell, congregate, communicate, and learn, in many cases, new TLDs will offer more secure, intuitive, and streamlined paths to the content users are looking for.

Since their introduction late last year, the steady growth of new TLDs, and second-level registrations within them, promises a bright future – IF a few kinks get worked out. One of those kinks is the potential incompatibility between email addresses in new TLDs and websites anchored to legacy TLDs, such as .COM and .ORG.

The number of high-traffic websites and apps still incompatible with the new gTLDs indicates a broad lack of awareness of the potential problem. Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn don’t recognize new gTLDs, meaning anyone with a new gTLD email address will be blocked from registering an account. Countless other websites and apps risk losing customers and therefore profits if they don’t make the necessary adjustments.

Linkedin

Imagine if a large community-based organization holding a convention tries to make online hotel reservations at a Hilton. The organizer is using a .COMMUNITY address, but after clicking the submit button, gets an error message. Hilton might lose thousands of dollars in potential business. Marriott, on the other hand, which has adjusted its systems to be compatible with new TLDs, could earn a loyal new TLD-using customer.

Hilton

Some of the most popular consumer mobile apps such as Venmo, Uber, Skype and Snapchat lack compatibility with the new TLDs. If you have a new TLD email address, you might find yourself the odd one out while all your friends are snapchatting unflattering selfies to each other from across the room.

Skype

It’s too early to measure the true impact of TLD incompatibility. But it will become increasingly problematic as new TLDs gain in popularity, particularly for business offering their goods and services online.

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow,” General George S. Patton famously said. At FairWinds Partners, we agree wholeheartedly, especially when it comes to new top-level domains.

New top-level domains – the text to the right of the dot in a web address – are joining the more traditional .COM, .ORG, .BIZ at a quickening pace, opening up vast new tracts of Internet territory in which companies can promote their products and services and in which they should protect against trademark infringements.

Over 100 new extensions, such as .GURU, .BERLIN, and .CLUB, and close to 800,000 websites anchored to them, are already in use or well on their way.

shutterstock_147597512But, as with any new development, the unscrupulous of the world will try to exploit an expanded Internet for their personal gain. We’re already seeing signs of this in the new top-level domain space.

Some of our clients are receiving emails warning that someone else is seeking to register the client’s company name in a new top-level domain. If the client doesn’t register its name by a certain date, the person sending the email threatens to allow the imposter to proceed. We’ve seen similar scare tactics on Facebook where ads warn that your brand could fall into the wrong hands.

Other clients are bombarded with invitations to register indiscriminately in random top-level domains, whether or not the top-level domain is relevant to their business model. And many companies have been advertising reserved registrations in future top-level domains, even though registrations occur strictly on a first come first served basis.

Don’t be fooled.  Avoid last-minute decision-making and take the time to consider what’s right for your company. Implement a proactive, forward-looking new top-level domain registration strategy tailor-made to meet your business goals.

Any business with trademarks, copyrights, or intellectual property has an interest in defending them in cyberspace.  Contact us for more information on how we can set you on the right course.

Brand owners are finally in the clear.

That is, in terms of signing new top-level domain Registry Agreements with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The remaining kinks of an amendment designed to consider the specific trademark needs of brands have been settled

The final fix? Brand owners may now designate three ICANN-accredited registrars to serve as the exclusive registrars for their .BRAND top-level domain, according to a blog entry posted by ICANN Vice President, Domain Name Services Cyrus Namazi.

Namazi announced that the language of the amendment – Specification 13 – is now available for qualifying .BRANDs in full.

ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program Committee (NGPC) approved the long-sought and much-discussed Specification 13 on March 26. But the three-registrar provision raised a potential conflict with another policy devised by the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO) that prohibits discrimination against any accredited registrar.

GNSO – the policy-making arm of ICANN for gTLDs – could have objected  to the three-registrar provision. But it chose not to after considering the unique business case of .BRANDs and public comments submitted on the proposed Specification 13. Since registration is limited in a .BRAND, brands prefer to use a limited number of designated registrars. Specification 13 will now explicitly allow brands to do so.

As we’ve noted before, the incorporation of the entirety of Specification 13 into the Registry Agreement is beneficial for .BRAND applicants. For example, in addressing some of brand owners’ collective concerns with the new gTLD Registry Agreement, the approval of Specification 13 will allow .BRAND applicants to move through the contracting and delegation processes and launch with greater speed.

And that could speed consumer adoption of new gTLDs, given the broad consumer base and digital presence of many brand applicants, and the benefits the .BRAND gTLD model presents for improved online security and consumer trust.

Global insurance and financial management giant AXA is the first brand to launch its new top-level domain .AXA with original content, including an explanation of top-level domains, the purpose behind its new site, and an invitation to affiliates to register within it.

“When you visit a website with an Internet address ending with .AXA, you can be certain that it’s authorized by AXA and overseen by us,” the company said on its new website, http://www.domains.axa/.

AXA is ranked 20th on the Global Fortune 500 list, with over 102 million customers in 56 countries and global annual revenues of $154.6 billion. Second-level domains will be available within .AXA for corporate and affiliate purposes only.

Since the beginning of the year, approximately 70 new top-level domains have launched. All have been generic terms, such as .GURU and .PHOTOGRAPHY, and are open to the public and the business community for registration of second-level domains. Of the almost 700 branded commercial enterprises to apply for their own top-level domains, AXA is the first to go public with unique content on its new top-level domain.

“AXA’s action represents a watershed moment for brands across the globe that applied for new top-level domains,” said Josh Bourne, Managing Partner of FairWinds Partners. “AXA emphasizes that authenticity and trust are central to the purpose of its new gTLD, echoing the goals of many .BRAND applicants.”

 

Amazon released Fire TV yesterday, a streaming device that will allow consumers to watch Hulu, Netflix and Amazon content on their televisions – much like Apple TV and Roku.

Unfortunately, as The Huffington Post reported, the e-commerce giant doesn’t own the most intuitive domain name www.firetv.com. A porn site does. “Apparently, the illicit site is also interested in letting you stream content to your television, although it’s hardly of the ‘fun-for-the-whole-family’ variety promised by Amazon in its launch today,” the HuffPo blogger wrote.

Perhaps the owner of the domain name in question just didn’t want to sell. Or perhaps Amazon felt the domain name it registered – amazonfiretv.com – was sufficient.

Another option for Amazon would have been to register fire within .TV, the ccTLD for the Tuvalu Islands. However, like http://www.firetv.com, http://www.fire.tv is already registered, and the registrant is protected using WhoisPrivacy services.

As of this morning, neither domain – firetv.com nor fire.tv – receives measurable traffic via Compete.

Depending on the popularity of and interest in Amazon’s new product, the lucky owners of these sites are likely to see at least some increase in traffic, if only from accidental visitors.

Amazon may also be thinking about registering the domain names of all products and campaigns within one or more of the 76 new generic top-level domain names’s for which it applied.

 

Picture from product page on www.amazon.com.

Picture from product page on http://www.amazon.com.

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ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLD) Program Committee (NGPC) has finally approved the long-sought and much-discussed Specification 13 – an amendment to the Registry Agreement that accommodates the special trademark needs of brands applying for their own top-level domains.

FairWinds staff on the ground at ICANN 49 in Singapore confirmed the news early Wednesday – to the relief of many corporate and non-profit applicants.

Earlier this month, ICANN Vice President of DNS Industry Engagement Cyrus Namazi published a revised version of the Specification 13 Base Agreement and explained, in an accompanying blog, that “If approved by NGPC, Specification 13 would provide limited accommodations to registry operators of TLDs that qualify as ‘.Brand TLDs.’”

While the number of accommodations may be “limited”, the significance of the revisions to brands that have invested so much time and money into their applications is not.

The incorporation of Specification 13 into the Registry Agreement for .BRAND applications will benefit them as well as consumers. In addressing some of brand owners’ collective concerns with the new gTLD Registry Agreement, Specification 13 will allow .BRAND applicants to move through the contracting process and transition to delegation with greater speed and ease.

And, given the broad consumer base and digital presence of many brand applicants, and the benefits the .BRAND gTLD model presents for improved online security and consumer trust, the incorporation of Specification 13 could speed consumer adoption of new gTLDs.

“FairWinds is grateful to the ICANN staff for its work on this issue, and to the NGPC for reaching an agreement to take into consideration the special circumstances of .BRAND applicants – a group that comprises almost one-third of all new gTLD applicants,” said Vice President for Consulting Services Samantha Demetriou.

Demetriou also acknowledged the critical role played by FairWinds policy experts Lillian Fosteris and Stephanie Duchesneau in recognizing the unique contractual needs of .BRANDs and working to ensure they were incorporated into the base contract.

Much work remains, however, to get .BRANDs over the finish line: The timeline for new gTLD applicants remains tight, and a formal process for requesting the inclusion of Specification 13 has not been announced.

For more information about the next steps for .BRAND applicants, continue to follow this blog or contact info@fairwindspartners.com to learn how you can receive timely and specific consulting guidance as a client of FairWinds.

Linking the Ancient World to the Digital Era, New gTLD Transcends Commercial Expectations

Guru is an ancient Sanskrit word that means spiritual teacher.

It is also the most popular new top-level Internet domain name.

guruSince .GURU opened for public registration of second-level domains on January 29, it far surpassed any of the other 49 new top-level domains launched this year – until .BERLIN opened for public registration last week and jumped into second place.

What makes .GURU so popular? Is it an East/West convergence thing? The serenity of ancient spiritual beliefs? The meditative elegance of Buddha? The magnanimity of the Dalai Lama? Maybe it’s the memory of the Beatles’ 1968 sojourn to the Maharishi’s ashram?

.GURU’s popularity wasn’t even anticipated by Donuts, the registry that owns it. A Donuts official told TheDomains.com that internal projections didn’t place .GURU among the top half of strings expected to get the most registrations. Since Donuts applied for 300 top-level domains, that means the company thought more than 150 others would be more crowd-pleasing.

Seriously? Wouldn’t you expect a sublime performance from a spiritual leader?

Actually, .GURU’s appeal has nothing to do with transcendence. Its popularity is based on a simple rule of capitalism: It is easily marketed. .GURU is a winner of a domain name because it not only implies supreme knowledge but can be appended to almost any word, noun, adjective, verb, or phrase, such as secondmortgage.GURU, goofy.GURU, quit.GURU, or becomeyourown.GURU – all registered domain names in the new extension.

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It seems a tad counterintuitive, however, to link some names to .GURU that people have registered, such as anxieties.GURU, mean.GURU, and rich.GURU. And some of the new domains border on sacrilege, or at least drain the word “guru” of its authority, such as beerdrinking.GURU, voodoo.GURU, and vices.GURU.

No matter. An investment is an investment, and .GURU turned out to be a very good one, indeed. Chances are the domain’s long-term value will withstand the oddities that its flexibility permits, as in twerking.GURU.

I just hope Bob Dylan’s people move quickly to register Workingona.Guru.

singapore49-logo-300x155-02jan14-enThe 49th public meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opens in Singapore next week, and FairWinds Partners will be on the ground attending formal and informal sessions, meeting with ICANN staff, and working toward solutions on key issues of interest to our clients.

The meeting likely will be abuzz with chatter about the Commerce Department’s decision to hand over control of ICANN to the multistakeholder community. We anticipate nascent discussions to begin defining how ICANN will establish its independence.

Those discussions will be on target as ICANN shifts from its focus on new top-level domains to the broader subject of Internet governance. New top-level domains will continue to dominate the business of stakeholder groups and constituencies. But ICANN’s pivot toward the big picture is reflected in the consolidation of all new top-level domain activities under its Global Domains Division.

The Global Domains Division has plenty of work ahead. Delays in how to resolve conflicting new top-level domain applications and other sticking points need to be resolved soon. FairWinds expects developments on:

  • Name collisions, where a new top-level domain may conflict with an internal domain already in use
  • ICANN auctions, specifically related to schedules and prices
  • Specification 13, which addresses issues of particular concern to brands
  • An orderly process for releasing geographic terms at the second level

To learn more about ICANN 49, new top-level domains, or FairWinds Partners, please check out FairWindsPartners.comBeyondtheDot.com, the Domain Name Strategy blog, @fairwinds,@gTLDstrategy@beyondthedot. Or call Taylor Frank at 202-223-5232.