Coffee houses have long served as places where individuals come together to discuss ideas and exchange information – from current events and politics to the latest innovations and inventions. This tradition made Busboys and Poets a natural venue for “The Impact of the New gTLD Program,” a panel discussion hosted by The D.C. Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-DC) and FairWinds Partners.

Coffee HouseAfter welcoming everyone to the event, Elizabeth Sweezey of FairWinds Partners pointed out that the words on the coffeehouse wall – Waiting, Watching, Dreaming – might resonate with those who’d been eagerly following the progress of new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications.  Taylor Frank, also of FairWinds, provided a helpful, straightforward description of the program and the important role of corporate applicants.

Each of the speakers/panelists then touched upon a range of possible implications of the New gTLD Program, including the potential for domain name collisions, the challenge of managing defensive registrations in new gTLDs, the need to involve the southern hemisphere to a greater degree, and the marketing of domain names in new gTLDs.

Following these remarks, Moderator David McAuley, of BloombergBNA, led a lively panel discussion. Fortunately for those “waiting, watching, and dreaming,” the discussion made clear that the waiting is (almost) over: users will begin seeing new gTLDs in their search results, address bars, and advertisements in early 2014.  For the most part, the panelists agreed that new gTLDs represent significant opportunities for corporations, smaller businesses, and individuals to create and innovate on the Internet.

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 5.34.45 PMNow that the watching, waiting, and dreaming is almost over, it’s time to dramatically increase efforts to educate end-users about what new gTLDs can offer.  As Frank explained, “marketing [for domain names] in 2014 is going to look very different than marketing in 2013 by virtue of the number of organizations and the types of organizations involved. It’s not going to solely rest in the hands of a few registrars to spread the word, to increase popularity, and educate people. It’s going to rest in their hands [and] in the hands of corporations. It’s going to be all across the board.”

If you want to learn more about new gTLDs, visit www.beyondthedot.com – a fun and educational resource. To watch the webcast of this panel discussion, please click here.

FairWinds would like to thank ISOC-DC for giving it the opportunity to co-sponsor this discussion, as well as the esteemed panelists for participating in and ensuring a lively, balanced discussion on this cutting-edge topic.

Learning a Lesson

Yvette Miller —  December 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Chalkboard New Top-Level Domains (TLDs) promise to open up new business models from those thinking creatively. So perhaps the new TLDs will also lead to new educational models – especially ones that harness the growing interest in online coursework.

Higher education is an enormous business in the United States.  According to Fast Company, we spend approximately $400 billion annually on universities, a figure greater than the revenues of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter combined.

But with climbing student debt –  a recent Harvard University poll found 58 percent of college graduates have student debt and 57 percent say it’s a major problem – online degrees, certificates, and courses could be the answer for more affordable learning. As it stands, Forbes notes that there are more than two billion potential secondary students in the world, but only 70 percent can afford higher education.

Online education could also be the answer for increased global access to learning.

Enter MOOCs (“massive open online courses”), which represent a developing market bolstered by traditional universities banding together to experiment with online content. One popular MOOC company – Coursera – offers online classes and verified certificates through a partnership between Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) have their own partnership, edX, which offers certificates for courses at their universities.

The MOOC experiments are the most visible result of efforts to adjust traditional teaching in a way that works for the online medium. Providers also continue to look for reliable ways to measure the success of online education to better adjust for shortcomings. Some of the biggest proponents of MOOCs, for example, now doubt MOOCs’ viability due to low graduation rates.

The prestige of these degrees, courses, and certificates is also in flux. According to research, 56 percent of employers prefer a job applicant with a traditional degree, whereas 17 percent prefer the online degree. As with any innovation, doubt and failures are inevitable.

New TLD applicants, for their part, are betting on the future of online learning. Entrepreneurs applied for the following extensions, anticipating robust sales for websites attached to them:

.ACADEMY

.COLLEGE

.DEGREE

.EDUCATION

.INSTITUTE

Innovative educators and the companies they create could change the face of education using these extensions, solving financial and other the problems, and pushing the online learning movement forward.

.BRAND New Language

Stephanie Duchesneau —  December 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

ICANN is out with proposed language for the New gTLD Registry Agreement (RA) that specifically addresses the concerns of brand applicants.

The draft language, put forward as Specification 13, covers a number of concerns regarding the baseline RA related to the unique needs and interests of brands as future Registry Operators.

The draft language proposes the following contractual modifications for .BRAND gTLDs:

  • An exemption from the Registry Operator Code of Conduct;
  • Permission to use a preferred and trusted registrar or registrars; and
  • The ability to oppose the transition of the registry for a two-year period following the termination of the RA and access to dispute resolution proceedings in the event that ICANN deems that transition is necessary to protect the public interest.

The language would be available for use by registries that meet ICANN’s definition of a .BRAND gTLD.

The proposal represents a positive step in supporting the diversity of business models that ICANN ushered in through the New gTLD Program. The language results from considerable effort and attention on the part of ICANN and brand advocates across the ICANN Public Meetings in Durban and Buenos Aires.

The language is now subject to a 42-day Public Comment Period, after which the draft language may be subject to further revision and analysis by ICANN Staff or be put forward to the New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) for approval.

Applicants who support the modifications are encouraged to voice their opinions through the Public Comment Forum.

The Hack of Your Life

Zane Bundy —  December 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

Jennifer Hudson may have gotten skinny using WeightWatchers.com, but according to the Washington Post, that doesn’t mean that the original online weight management program isn’t feeling the heat from free or inexpensive apps like Nike+ and devices like FitBit.

Exercise

In fact, the Internet itself contains a wealth of weight loss content, from websites that help you calculate calories consumed to online trainers who guide you, in real time, through exercises via video messaging.

In addition to weight loss information, just think about the amount of lifestyle, career, general health, and self-improvement content you encounter each day – and then consider the channels through which you’re digesting that information.

Probably via television channels like HGTV and the Food Network, online news websites like the New York Times Health section or Yahoo! news stories, or a blogger’s review of fitness apps that your friend shared on Facebook. Don’t forget lifehacker.com, one of my favorite rabbit-hole websites devoted to tips and advice on everything from more efficient computer use to the optimal length of a nap.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 6.02.31 PM

This sort of self-improvement content is readily available, easily digested, and deceptively productive – and it’s about to get even more powerful, perhaps more personal, thanks to new gTLDs.

How? Because new gTLDs are the next step in connecting online identities to communities – and the relationship between identity and community is key to achieving fitness and weight loss goals, as was recently demonstrated in a study of weight loss success stories that involved social media.

Given the powerful connection between identity and community (not to mention identity and brands), will future fitness trackers link to [yourname].FITNESS? Will Oprah’s favorite life coaches buy domain names on the recently approved .GURU? Will Martha Stewart snag marthastewart.LIVING?

But wait, there’s more! Though some of the following gTLDs will be restricted or closed, I’m pretty confident that whoever is behind any of these gTLDs is betting that our society’s fascination/obsession with well-being, lifestyle, and fitness will pay off in a big way (especially given that the total revenue of the fitness industry reached $21.8 billion last year):

.SPORT
.SPORTS
.YOGA
.DIET
.LIFE
.LIFESTYLE
.RUN

FairWinds’ own Phil Lodico, an avid runner, uses a Garmin to track his fitness and progress.  Phil is, in fact, so dedicated to running that he recruited employees for the recent Washington D.C. Ragnar Race.

I don’t really, um, run – but I can say that the race has increased the amount of bonding in the office and that, not surprisingly, our digitally savvy staff has embraced all that the Internet has to offer them as they train – from apps to websites to Ragnar fan pages.  Maybe if I just find the right app and tracked my stats on Facebook – I, too, could run through the night with my colleagues and swap race stories in the office. Until then, I’ll just focus on optimizing my nap times…

Fun Fact: if you search for the term “gym” in ICANN’s new gTLD application database, the result is the application for “.PIZZA”…?!

Pizza

Buenos Aires Brief

FairWinds Partners —  November 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

buenosaires48-logo-328x140-12sep13-en_0_0ICANN’s 48th Public Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, marked an important transition point for the organization and for all members of the ICANN community.

Community members as well as ICANN staff have focused for the past several meetings on the successful implementation of the New gTLD Program. But by the close of the Buenos Aires meeting, it was clear that ICANN leadership had turned a corner and is beginning to focus on new initiatives beyond the New gTLD Program.

An important milestone in this transition has been the delegation of new gTLDs. The number of delegated gTLDs surpassed the number of legacy gTLDs like .COM, .NET and .ORG shortly before the Buenos Aires meeting opened. Before the first new gTLD, there were 22 top-level domains in the root. Now there are 31 newly delegated gTLDs, and dozens more could come online before the end of 2013.

A second indication of ICANN’s transition is President and CEO Fadi Chehadé’s drive to involve ICANN in the emerging global discussion around Internet governance. ICANN supported the September Montevideo statement on expanding the global nature of Internet governance. And Chehade and the ICANN Board of Directors made news in Buenos Aires through their involvement in upcoming global meetings on Internet governance.

Such a shift of focus is hardly surprising given ICANN’s broad mandate. However, many applicants are concerned that this transition comes too early and well before ongoing programs, such as the New gTLD Program, are fully and successfully implemented. For example, while the Public Meeting in Buenos Aires fostered positive progress on the .BRAND Registry Agreement, the continued delay of ICANN’s auctions has left hundreds of contention sets unresolved. Moreover, the lack of a finalized plan to mitigate name collision risks has left many gTLD applicants in a state of limbo.

More than ever, applicants must navigate a more complicated environment in completing the new gTLD process. ICANN’s focus has changed at the very moment applicants must begin considering ICANN a regulator.

What remains constant, though, is the fact that ICANN will continue to exert significant influence over brand owners’ new gTLD activities, and so brand owners must continue to keep a close eye on the organization in order to extract the most value from their new gTLD investments.

720px-Flag_of_Brazil.svg

Over the past several months, Brazil:

  • Objected to a new top-level domain – .AMAZON – applied for by the world’s largest online retailer Amazon.com, claiming sovereignty over the region and the river.
  • Proposed that technical control of the Internet be switched from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – which Brazil thinks is too closely aligned with the U.S. – to the United Nations (U.N.) but  subsequently withdrew the proposal.
  • Pushed forward with legislation requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep the personal information of Brazilians within the nation’s borders.
  • Announced it will hold an Internet governance conference in April 2014.

What exactly is going on here?

You could argue that Brazil is simply fulfilling its role as the largest country in Latin America, the world’s fifth largest nation, or the country with the fifth largest population of Internet users.

But it’s hard not to think Brazil’s outrage over pervasive spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) hasn’t sparked what seems like a sudden desire to place its imprint on how the Internet will be governed in the future.

Remember Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s reaction to the news that her cell phone conversations had been monitored by the NSA? In a fit of pique, she became the first national leader in living memory to cancel a scheduled state visit to the U.S. and then delivered a fiery speech before the U.N., in September essentially accusing the U.S. of lawlessness. “Tampering in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and an affront to the principles that must guide relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff said.

Two weeks later, Rousseff announced the Internet governance summit via Twitter.

During an ICANN48 closing press conference in Buenos Aires, ICANN chief Fade Chehadé said the NSA spying disclosures were “almost totally irrelevant” to the Spring 2014 Internet governance meeting in Brazil.

But that’s not what it sounded like right after Rousseff’s U.N. speech. “She spoke for all of us on that day,” Chehadé said. “She expressed the world’s interest to actually find out how we are going to all live together in this new digital age. The trust in the global Internet has been punctured and now it’s time to restore this trust through leadership and institutions that can make that happen.”

Whatever its motivation, Brazil is increasingly involved in Internet governance issues, which are moving to center stage for ICANN, the U.N., and many other nations in the aftermath of NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures.

Chehadé has made it clear that Brazil is not just hosting the Spring summit, but taking the lead in inviting participants to help shape the summit, and that ICANN’s own panel on Internet cooperation will help inform the Brazil summit where it can.

Bem-vindo ao debate, Brasil (welcome to the debate, Brazil).

ICANN: Buenos Aires

FairWinds Partners —  November 15, 2013 — 1 Comment

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is holding its 48th public meeting in Buenos Aires from November 17 to 21, and FairWinds Partners will be on the ground gathering intelligence.

A lot has happened in the world of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) since ICANN’s last meeting in July. Most significantly, ICANN has signed contracts with applicants for 115 new gTLDs. Twenty-three among that group have moved forward to launch sunrise periods, during which trademark owners may register second-level domains that match their marks. The internationalized domain name شبكة. which means .WEB in Arabic and is known as DotShabaka in English, was the first to launch its sunrise period and, therefore, likely will be the first new gTLD to launch publicly in the first days of 2014.

Despite the progress in rolling out new gTLDs, ICANN is still mulling a number of difficult decisions related to the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) Advice issued at ICANN’s April meeting in Beijing. Members of the ICANN community and brand owners will be anticipating developments if not resolutions to these thorny issues.

  • Chief among the outstanding issues is the GAC’s “safeguard advice” pertaining to gTLDs that represent sensitive subjects or regulated businesses, such as .BANK or .CHARITY. ICANN has agreed that these gTLDs will be subject to additional constraints but has provided little guidance on what those constraints might be, so Buenos Aires attendees will be eager for some news.
  • ICANN has moved faster on the GAC Advice relating to generic strings. Its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) has added language to the Applicant Guidebook that essentially prohibits closed generic gTLDs. Still to be resolved, however, is whether applicants for closed generic strings must open registration to the public or to a more limited cross section and the timing of when they must open their gTLDs.
  • A third area about which attendees will be anticipating some development involves geographic identifiers in new gTLDs, such as Mexico.Google or China.Walmart. Geographic identifiers must be approved by the GAC representative from the relevant country, but no process is in place for timely approval. FairWinds has been working to help create an orderly process by talking to GAC members about the need for a plan.
  • Finally, ICANN is still in discussions with brand owners about potential changes to the base contract to account for their brand specific needs. Although several issues, such as rights upon termination and transfer of a brand gTLD, are still under discussion, a number of brands have signed the contract as is, undercutting the bargaining power of all brands.

For on-the-scene FairWinds reports from the meeting, check our blog and Twitter feeds.