Archives For Domain Names

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.

.COIn 2009, the Colombian government entered into an agreement with .CO Internet S.A.S. (.CO Internet) to market and sell domain names within Colombia’s country code top level domain (ccTLD), .CO. By the end of 2010, .CO Internet began targeting startups after initial registrations by Google (g.co), Twitter (t.co), Amazon (a.co, k.co for Kindle), and others.

Traditionally, marketing a ccTLD has been reserved for registrars, hosting companies, social media agencies and others downstream in the marketplace. But the company that manages .CO is aiming directly at the end user – you – by offering a simplified way to create a quick and easy online platform, with a domain name, a website, and an email address.

Speaking directly to the end user seems to be a call to innovation and disruptive business models: consider Harry’s, a razor company going toe to toe with Gillette by offering a different take on the very traditional razor blade, or Warby Parker, an eyewear company that cuts out the middle man and markets to a hipster-ish, younger consumer base.

Given the imminent launch of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .SHOP, .NYC and .CARS, startup companies with interesting takes on everyday items and services will have even more options for establishing and marketing themselves in unique, effective and innovative ways online.

Because I grew up in New England, right outside of Boston, the Boston Globe has always been a staple in my life. I can still picture it perfectly, folded up in its clear plastic bag, waiting at the end of the driveway to be picked up with the mail. To this day, whenever I go home to visit my family, I still sit in the kitchen with my parents and try to solve the Sunday crossword.

So, I was interested when I heard the Globe is up for sale, along with its Internet counterpart, Boston.com, a website providing 24-hour breaking news and sports with coverage from the Globe, and The Hive, a tech and innovation blog covering the Boston start-up, venture, and research communities

As Michael Morisy of Inside the Hive points out, most of the public focus has been on who the new owner may be and the value of the physical property the Globe occupies in Dorchester, MA.  He raises the question of what the new owner might do with the domain names Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and Globe.com, which it will also come into possession of.

The Globe’s domain names are known as “keyword” domain names and can be extremely valuable, with estimated values reaching into the tens of millions. The domain name Sex.com was sold in 2010 for a record-breaking $13 million. While it is unlikely that the new owner will sell BostonGlobe.com, the other two domain names could be sold off for a nice profit.

Cameron Gordon from DigitalDNA, a domain name brokerage firm, estimates that Boston.com could easily be worth between $5-10 million, noting the elements of its value: “Boston.com garners over 2.5 million unique visitors per month and is a single word .COM and the succinct digital representation of a popular U.S. city with very loyal citizens.”

The backstory on how the Globe initially acquired the domain name is another story in and of itself. Morisy’s post describes how Au Bon Pain was the original owner of Boston.com, but struck a deal with the Globe’s then-executive vice president to hand over the domain name in exchange for “four quarter-page ads for charities of [its] choice and an agreement that Boston.com would produce and host the Au Bon Pain [website]”.

What Morisy doesn’t mention, is that the Globe was also one of a few hundred businesses to apply for a new generic top-level domain (gTLD) – in this case .BOSTON. While the application is still pending, the value of .BOSTON as a digital asset should be taken into consideration by the new owner.

The new owner could sell .BOSTON to another interested party or business. Or, it could bet on turning the new gTLD into a cash cow. The Globe applied for .BOSTON as an “open” registry, meaning anyone may purchase second-level domain names in .BOSTON. The Globe’s new owner could profit handsomely by selling a near limitless number of second-level domains – if the new gTLDs take off in popularity.

Regardless of what ends up happening, I do hope that the .BOSTON gTLD becomes active. I’m already imagining the possibilities – sending visitors to Tourism.BOSTON for the must see sights and vacation itineraries, typing in UnionOysterHouse.BOSTON to make a reservation, or of course navigating to RedSox.BOSTON for a season schedule.

Among the hurdles brand applicants for new gTLDs must still clear is gaining access to geographic domain names at the second level. For example, will applicants be able to buy domains such as Canada.FairWinds or DE.FairWinds (DE is the two-character label for Germany).

According to the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook, ICANN prohibits the registration of these geographic domain names unless the Registry Operator gets explicit approval from the corresponding country’s members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). This policy was adopted out of respect for geographic regions to prevent misuse and misrepresentation of their governments, cultures, people, or reputations. And the process for obtaining approval is an onerous one.

The Registry Operator must approach each GAC member individually to ask for permission to use their respective country names and two-character country code TLDs. The GAC member must in turn petition his or her home government, a process that undoubtedly will involve multiple layers of government, and therefore delay.  The registry operator and each petitioning GAC member will have to expend precious resources and energy to gain approval. And, considering that over one-third of the 1,400 applications headed for launch are from branded companies, many of them global, the process will quickly become cumbersome and perhaps unworkable.

The solution? An expedited process for evaluating brand-owner requests for geographic domain names, one that standardizes requests and validations through established evaluation criteria. Criteria could include examining the gTLD’s proposed business model, the string, and the applicant’s use cases for the requested geographic domain names.

FairWinds Partners has proposed this streamline solution in a letter sent to the GAC in advance of ICANN’s next meeting in Durban in mid-July. We look forward to a full discussion on the topic, as the community marches onward – hopefully with some efficiency – to the launch of new gTLDs.

Reining in the Rogue

FairWinds Partners —  January 18, 2013

At FairWinds, one of the services we offer clients is a sort of “spring cleaning” of their domain name registrations. We know that, especially for large corporations, there are often many different individuals who register domain names – sometimes representatives from various departments within the company, and other times account representatives at partner agencies such as marketing and creative firms. We also know that even when these registrations are made with the best of intentions, after a certain point, things tend to go awry. As time goes on, employees leave and agency contracts expire. And eventually, the company’s network of domain names starts to resemble a tangled web. Continue Reading…