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China

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.

The soccer bug has bitten FairWinds Partners – how could it not? – and now we’re eagerly watching how the new top-level domain (TLD) applications for .SOCCER, .FOOTBALL, and .FUTBOL will pan out.

Several applications each for .SOCCER and .FOOTBALL are currently in contention. .FUTBOL has already been delegated into the root zone and thus has a head start. We’ll have to wait and see which TLD of the three will be the most popular by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2018. At that point, the new extensions won’t be new anymore but a familiar piece of the Internet landscape.

One factor to watch is the potential change in demographics of the groups watching soccer. Different countries and cultures may not only have different words for a sport, but may also have different online navigation preferences and rates of adoption for new gTLDs.

The Economist recently published an article (“A Game of Two Halves“) about the fact that, despite soccer’s global appeal, the world’s largest nations – China, India, and the U.S. – haven’t been deeply involved with the sport. But, as the piece notes, that might change in the coming years. Americans are filling soccer stadiums in larger numbers than ever before. Average attendance is at around 18,600 people per match in the U.S. and the sport is “second only to American football in its popularity with Americans between the ages of 12 and 24.” China is heavily investing in soccer as well, building a major soccer academy in the province of Guangdong. And India’s younger generation is likewise poised to usher in greater support for the sport with the aid of Bollywood actors who are helping to promote the Indian Premier League.

Whatever the future of the sport (and .SOCCER, .FOOTBALL, and .FUTBOL) might be, count us among the millions of people now tuning in to the World Cup – on to Round of 16, Team USA!

Owning It

Yvette Miller —  June 25, 2014 — 1 Comment

SocialMedia

A recent article in AdWeek predicts that, “some key trends will push brands to build social media capabilities into their own websites and own, rather than rent, social interaction with their customers.”

It makes sense for brands to own the raw data about their customers that otherwise would belong to a third-party. Owning data frees brands from changing algorithms and relying on others’ reports. It also makes sense within what looks like a larger trend of companies taking greater ownership of their digital footprints by owning .BRANDs.

Incorporating the best of what social media has to offer on their own websites might be an enticing alternative to remaining at the mercy of social media platforms. Social media platforms call the shots on the algorithms and formats that determine how a brand gets presented to its customers. The platforms also control the data that shows how effective a brand’s campaign was. Finally, it seems as though all social media platforms fall back on advertising: It’s really the advertising that brings brand sales.

Social media sites may have the upper hand because they can integrate brands into a consumer’s other social media activities, like browsing Facebook for the latest in their loved ones’ (and barely-known ones’) lives.

Moving more social media “in-house” might be an involved and expensive undertaking. But it fits into the trend of brands exerting more control over their online presence. For example, more than half of all unique applications for new gTLDs were submitted by brand owners and strategic companies who are now strategizing on ways to communicate with their consumers via .BRANDs and other new gTLDs.

Perhaps a JaneDoe.NIKE Pinterest-inspired page would help customers play with looks that they can then purchase. Maybe universities will offer Instagram-inspired pages like JohnDoe.MIT that offer students a sort of yearbook of classes and events.

Offering authentic products, good security and engaging content – that perhaps draws upon social media features – may be a winning combination for some .BRANDs.

ClosedSignAs the New gTLD Program has rolled out over the course of the past few years, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has made a number of program changes along the way. One of these changes disallows closed, generic gTLD applications, such as Amazon’s application for .BOOK.

Now, applicants for closed generics must decide how to proceed: whether to open their generic strings to the public, limit registrations to a defined portion of the public, withdraw the application, or sell it.

While some applicants for closed generics are already considering selling their strings to operators more experienced in running open registries, others are weighing the costs of revising their original business plans and operating restricted registries.

Despite the added work involved, this middle ground can provide as valuable a platform for innovation as closed and open registries.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the New gTLD Program, announced the prohibition against closed generic gTLDs last October. Earlier in the year, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) had identified over 100 generic strings that it said were contrary to the public interest. The ICANN board endorsed the GAC advice but noted it would not apply if an applicant could demonstrate the closed registry would serve the public interest.

A restricted gTLD won’t be the same as one populated by a single-registrant, speaking with one voice. But nor will it dilute the registry operator’s central message, purpose, or intention, the way an open generic might.

The traditional gTLD space is filled with successful restricted registries — .GOV and .EDU are the most prominent examples — so ICANN’s decision doesn’t have to be the death knell for applicants of closed generics. Those applicants can still build an intuitive and meaningful restricted namespace.

The most obvious benefit of operating a restricted registry, as is the case with an open registry, is the potential for profit, though registries will have to carefully weigh potential profits against the cost of running the registry. Of course, determining the potential profitability of a registry is exceedingly difficult, as the market changes constantly. But applicants can take a number of steps to increase their chances of financial success.

Restricted registries can take advantage of options available to all applicants to strengthen their exclusivity. They may, for example, reserve up to 100 names for promotional purposes before going live. They also may reserve any number of second-level domains as “premium names,” which can be sold at higher prices, adding to the proprietary nature of the string.

Operators of restricted registries also must work closely with their registrars to enforce the restrictions they impose. Without enforcement, the restrictions will be meaningless. And the registry operator must understand that a restricted gTLD may not discriminate against otherwise eligible registrants, such as competitors.

The Registry Agreement and Registry-Registrar Agreement are the primary places a registry must clarify its new policies as an open or restricted registry. Clarifications must also be made to the Acceptable Use and Takedown policies.

A registry that makes the necessary adjustments to run a restricted generic may reap the benefits, despite having had to abandon its original plan and adopt a new one. As with other types of gTLDs, association with a successful new string can open new avenues for extending a brand, supporting new business models, and creating unique marketing opportunities.

If a new gTLD is well maintained and provides high-quality, relevant content, the operator of that space may be viewed as a trusted, reliable, and useful source of information, which in turn creates demand, and thus profit.

 

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.

NYC

I’m a New Yorker, born and raised. Proud product of its public schools. My teenage years were spent criss-crossing boroughs looking for the next thrill. People-watching and exploring new neighborhoods are just two reasons I was always thankful to grow up in such a busy city, which in some ways always changes (the restaurants, the exhibits) and in other ways never does (the museums, the crowds).

Life has since taken me elsewhere, but take note: I didn’t say “I was a New Yorker”. Living here for any stretch of time stamps NYC on your heart and it stays there. I am a New Yorker.

Just not one who can own a .NYC.

The rules of the new, geographic, top-level domain say that registrants in .NYC must be:

  1. a person whose primary place of residence is a valid physical address in the City of New York; or
  2. an entity or organization that has a physical address in the City of New York.

After attending college and working in Washington D.C., I moved back to Westchester with my husband where we started a family. My parents still live in Queens, but .NYC rules stipulate that no one with a NYC address can act as a proxy for those outside the city. .NYC will be for those who live or work within the five boroughs.

And you know what? That’s alright with me. Authenticity is a not only a major benefit of new top-level domains. It is a quintessential trait of New Yorkers. At least I will know that anyone with a .NYC website is the real deal.

The “Sunrise” period for brand-owners to get a head start on registrations opened May 5. General Availability, when locals can begin to register domain names, is slated for October.

Maybe one day I’ll be back in the Big Apple. And then I can get my .NYC URL.

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.