Archives For New gTLDs

Among more traditional, boots-on-the-ground struggles unfolding in the political sphere are power plays happening in cyberspace.  The same control and influence social media affords consumers – taking control of the conversation, providing feedback, making noise when something isn’t right about a brand or a product – has been useful to civilians reacting to issues of state governance.

According to the Washington Post, many participants learned about the protests in Ukraine “from internet sites like Facebook (49 percent), VKontakte (a Facebook-like social media site that is popular among Russian speakers, 35 percent), and Internet news sites, such as Spilno TV and Hromadianske TV (51 percent)” (survey participants chose all applicable answers for the question). The U.S. State Department has gotten in on the conversation too; Politico reports on the digital dipomacy the U.S. uses to “correct misinformation”, “advance a positive narrative” in the Ukraine, and engage with individuals rather than talking at them.

Twitter played a major role in the Arab Spring and is assuming a similar role in the protests unfolding in Venezuela.  The platform has empowered protesters and allowed retired army general Angel Vivas to provide encouragement, organizational help, and tactical advice to protesters, turning him into the face of the movement. According to Mashable, Twitter is also the only free media available.

“[The Internet] seems to be the last space that the government has not figured out how to monopolize,” Ashley Greco-Stoner of the Freedom House told Mashable.

The Venezuelan government’s limited influence is not through lack of trying: It has established its own presence on Twitter and allegedly sought to increase its standing through subversive tactics such as purchasing followers and using shell accounts to bump up the number of pro-government hashtag mentions.

Nevertheless, the protests continue, and attempts by the government to create manufactured good will online has not taken hold. That’s another lesson brands should keep in mind when registering and using social media handles and domain names: Every portal has to be a genuine representation of your company and your intentions.

The same is true for brands/Internet users and their digital presence: They must follow through on the promises they make on their platforms.

New gTLDs are opening new opportunities for individuals to hone their images. For example, someone might purchase a JohnDoe.PHOTOGRAPHY website to legitimize himself as a photographer, or a JaneDoe.GURU website to establish expertise. Businesses of all sizes also may use .GENERICs to establish a certain image, maybe by registering in .LUXURY. But if you (literally) don’t have the goods to back up the image you’re crafting, the campaign will not be successful.

In the 1950s, a psychologist invented the “wug” test to determine when children understand how language indicates and distinguishes between singular, versus plural, items.  The children were shown a picture of a single creature and told that it was a wug. Then the children were shown a picture with two of the creatures and were asked to finish the sentence “There are two ____.”  Children as young as three were able to answer with “wugs”.

So here’s a 21st century version of the wug test: what’s the difference between .PET and .PETS?

According to a recent ruling by International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelist Richard Page, there isn’t enough of one: choosing to set aside UDRP precedent, Page ruled in favor of Google’s assertion that .PET (for which it applied) is confusingly similar to .PETS (for which Donuts Inc., a domain name registry, applied).

“The visual similarity and algorithmic score are high, the aural similarity is high, the meaning similarity is high. Objector has met its burden of proof. The cumulative impact of these factors is such that the Expert determines that the delegation of <.pet> gTLD and the <.pets> gTLD into the root zone would cause a probability of confusion.”

Wug

As Keven Murphy of DomainIncite points out in his blog on the ruling, other panelists came to the opposite conclusions in two cases before the New gTLD String Confusion Panel, one that found .HOTEL/.HOTELS were not confusingly similar and neither were .CAR/.CARS.  FairWinds’ own legal specialist, Steve Levy, commented that “as we feared, this will lead to an inconsistent patchwork of rulings on singular vs. plural new gTLDs even though this seems to have been a non-issue in conventional domain names.”

So take the Wug test for the Internet Age for yourself and let us know what you think – how will the content on .KID differ from .KIDS? Or how will Internet users decide to go to a website in the .LOAN gTLD as opposed to one in .LOANS?

The New York Times recently reported on the spike in same-sex marriage-themed travel deals since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA.) The JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square hotel immediately began offering a  ‘Love is Love is Love’ package, and “Orbitz began a photo contest in which participants could win flights to destinations that recognize same-sex marriage, including New York City, Seattle, Buenos Aires and Paris”.

In its online brochure, Discover Los Angeles specifically references the decision, announcing that, “the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on June 26, 2013 has paved the way to restore marriage equality in California. With its gorgeous weather, world-class hotels and spectacular scenery, Los Angeles is the perfect city to host an unforgettable wedding.”

So why are travel-related companies jumping at the chance to attract same-sex couples? It’s big business, as the Times explains. Gay couples are more likely to travel to places they perceive or understand to be welcoming to same-sex couples – like San Francisco and New York. Many also have disposable incomes.

New gTLD applicants seem to have also capitalized on the business potential of the LGBT community and could, once the new gTLDs are launched, benefit from the marriage industry’s boom as well. Four applicants are competing for .GAY. One of the four is a community application that proposes restricted registration, but includes the promotion of commerce as one of its purposes.

Only one application was submitted for .LGBT by Afilias; it is not a community application. Three applicants are competing for .WEDDING (which of course could be used for sites such as, say, samesex.WEDDING).

I asked Taylor Frank, a native of Los Angeles and V.P. at FairWinds, if he thought companies could and would use the new gTLD space to reach the LGBT community in even more numerous and innovative ways.  “Absolutely,” he said. “In fact, companies, non-profits, and individuals looking to communicate with any community of any race, gender, orientation, religious or political affiliation have a wide open opportunity to use new gTLDs.   New gTLDs are new territory – for innovative expression and business models of all kinds.”

 

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.

 

When the new gTLDs roll out, banking online will take a step toward better security.      Approximately 20 banks applied for their own .BRAND, including  Citigroup (.CITI),    Bank of America (.BOFA), HSBC (.HSBC), and The State Bank of India (.STATEBANK).    Other banks, including smaller regional banks, will have the opportunity to register in  the  generic TLD .BANK.

 

Those banks will be ahead of the game, particularly since the Wall Street Journal has  reported that that phishing was related to $2.5 billion in financial-industry losses in  2011.

 

 

https://gtldresult.icann.org/application-result/applicationstatus/viewstatus

fTLD Registry Services, LLC  (FRS) and Dotsecure, Inc. applied for .BANK. As fTLD explains in the public portion of its application, it is applying for the new gTLD “on behalf of the global banking community to ensure that the .bank gTLD will serve as a trusted, hierarchical, and intuitive namespace for this community, the businesses that are either supported by or represent the community and the consumers it serves.” Dotsecure, on the other hand, did not submit a community-based application for .BANK.  “The mission⁄purpose for .bank is to be the Global Banking TLD. Keeping this in mind, .bank will look to contribute to the Internet Namespace in several ways” and then proceeds to list Enhance Trust, Searchability and Recognition, Registrant Choice, Create a Cleaner Internet Space and Create a Stable and Resilient Internet.  Where fTLD focused on the community aspect of its application, Dotsecure focuses on the technical aspects of running a gTLD.

In its application, FRS (which was formed by the American Bankers Association (ABA) and Financial Services Roundtable), explains that registrants – those applying for websites or domain names within the .BANK TLD – will be vetted to ensure that the prospective registrant is, in fact, a recognized bank and financial services company.  Dotsecure also discusses the problem of banking online, “Within the current gTLD and ccTLD environment, there are constant attempts of fraudulent representation of banking institutions on the Internet. Fraudulent “Nigerian Bank emails” or “Chinese Funds Transfer emails” have occurred so often they have become common spam. Using the new gTLD program, it is possible to build a unique and trusted Internet space for banking institutions. In this gTLD, all registrations will be fully restricted to only certified banking institutions. The banking organization’s identity and accreditation will have been verified prior to allowing live web services of name resolution. The .bank new gTLD will be a more trustworthy system.”

FRS references recent reports by RSA and the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) on phishing attacks, explaining that a secure and trustworthy TLD would reduce the incidents of phishing and phishing emails, which can contain harmful and dangerous malware.  As Josh Bourne of FairWinds Partners explains, “If bad-actors are not allowed to register in .BANK, then consumers can and will trust .BANK sites and emails that lead to .BANK sites. Those who try to scam consumers using official-looking emails from websites not ending in .BANK will be less likely to trick Internet users who know that their bank or financial services company only uses a .BANK website, for example.”

Customers of banks who applied for their .BRAND – like .BOFA – are likely to  benefit from knowing that any correspondence claiming to be from the bank but not generated by .BOFA is fraudulent (or highly likely to be fraudulent).  Hopefully, by establishing these secure, online territories for banks, the amount of financial industry-related phishing will be reduced for consumers worldwide.

Some companies sell bags, some sell guitars, some sell phones, some sell shoes, and others sell everything from antiques to zippers. Just about all companies today sell “something” – and themselves — online.

As the Internet has grown over the past two decades we’ve seen more and more participation by businesses online to the point of ubiquity.  Businesses that started small, perhaps with a simple, one-page website have expanded their online presence to hundreds of sites with many thousands of webpages.  How content on these sites is organized and how the architecture that enables Internet users to find (either directly or via search) the content they are looking for seems like magic at times.

In some instances you’ll see a URL such as http://www.hilton.com/boston and in other cases you’ll see hiltonboston.roomstays.com.  Both have information about Hilton hotel properties in the Boston metro area.  The difference in the URL structure is based upon how the websites are set up.

Now the web is a-flutter with news – delivered by Google’s Matt Cutts in a recent blog titled “What to Expect in SEO in the Coming Months” – that the search engine giant is changing its algorithm in a way that will almost certainly affect most companies, and specifically those that use subdomain names.

Let’s take a quick look at how and some possible reasons why – especially why your company should take notice.

HOW

It all comes down, as so many changes and decisions related to the Internet do, to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As SearchEngineWatch explained in its breakdown of Cutts’ video, “If you’re doing deep searches in Google … you can see the same site popping up with a cluster of results on those deep pages. Google is looking into a change where once you have seen a cluster of results from the same site, you will be less likely to see more and more from that same site as you go deeper. Cutts mentioned this as being something that came specifically from user feedback.”

WHY

Cutts explains that this is going to clean up and improve search results. But why now? Could it be because new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are coming soon and with them a massive expansion of the number of domain names and websites? Will this make it easier for users and search providers alike to connect with the most relevant content? Or maybe not, but like most things coming from Cutts, it has many of us wondering.

As we’ve explained before, new gTLDs will change behavior. It’s just not clear exactly how or if their impact will be felt in search yet.

BUT REALLY, WHY SHOULD I CARE?

You should care because your company – large or small, private or public a) is probably on the Internet using subdomains and/or subdirectories, and b) may have applied for its own new top-level domain.

How your company decides to build its presence in the new gTLD landscape – whether it owns the gTLD or whether it registers in another gTLD – will impact how your company appears in customer search results and, therefore, how much search-driven revenue it gains, maintains, or loses.

Everything a company does online, from launching websites for specific campaigns to maintaining a comprehensive corporate homepage, is going to have to be translated into the new world of new gTLDs, which could begin launching this fall at a rate of 20 per week.

The architecture of existing websites as well as the architecture of a company’s new gTLD strategy will need to be carefully designed or “renovated” if the company determines that its domain name structure is no longer “SEO stable.”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently released an update on the New gTLD Program Committee’s (NGPC) discussion about how and when it would address the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) advice from Beijing.

ICANN has stated that the NGPC’s goal is “to carefully consider GAC advice and community input and to make decisions that will allow the greatest number of new gTLD applications to move forward as soon as possible.” This may be difficult given that the GAC advice, if accepted, could significantly delay gTLD applications.

In its update, ICANN restates that the NGPC’s discussion was structured around the GAC Advice Framework to organize and prioritize individual advice items. ICANN is developing a scorecard to do just that.

The update also reveals that the NGPC has begun discussing the GAC Advice on Safeguards. ICANN is seeking input on this topic via an open Public Comment Forum, which closes on June 4, 2013.

ICANN also reminds us that over the next few weeks, the NGPC will be holding a series of calls “to discuss applicant responses to the GAC advice, the Safeguard advice and related public comment, and other matters including the GAC’s advice on singular and plural strings, its questions in Annex 2 [of its Advice], and its requests for briefing papers.”

ICANN recently held an Applicant Update Webinar led by Christine Willett, VP of Operations, as part of a series intended to provide information on the evaluation progress, program developments, and other topics of interest to new gTLD applicants. While the webinar didn’t produce any groundbreaking news, applicants should take note of key dates for ICANN auctions and Community Priority Evaluations.

New gTLD applicants in Contention Sets can request an ICANN auction after publication of Initial Evaluation results. Completion of the Initial Evaluation stage is expected by August, with ICANN planning to begin auction proceedings in September; this is likely because private auction providers have previously announced their intentions to begin their own auction processes in the coming weeks.

ICANN also announced that community-based new gTLD applicants can request Community Priority Evaluations (CPEs) starting in June. The CPE is a process by which to resolve string contention, which may be elected by a community-based applicant. CPE evaluations are then scheduled to take place in September.

Other important ICANN updates include:

  • The last set of Financial, Technical, and Registry Services Clarifying Questions (CQs) will be released on May 22, 2013
  • ICANN will be holding a Contracting Webinar Session in early June to inform applicants on material information needed for an executable Registry Agreement
  • ICANN has launched a new Contracting & Registry Agreement microsite
  • Pre-Delegation Beta Testing has begun and ICANN has clarified that applicants will need to have signed their Registry Agreement prior to Pre-Delegation Testing
  • Thanks to implementation of the Strawman Model, 50 domain labels found to have been previously abused have been added to existing verified TMCH records
  • ICANN will release a timeline for the earliest theoretical launch of new gTLDs

Much remains and will remain unknown until the ICANN Board decides how to proceed on the Registry Agreement, the latest draft of which is now open for public comment, and on the GAC Advice, which the board is now reviewing.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Washington DC Chapter of the Internet Society recently co-hosted a panel discussion on the dicey topic of “The Geopolitics of Internet Governance.”

Panelists addressed the questions of how to devise a more inclusive Internet Governance structure to replace the U.S.-centric one developed in the 1990s. The trick will be how to satisfy non-western states’ desire for a larger role and still maintain essential democratic principles such as the free flow of information and human rights.

The panel featured:

  • Phil Verveer, Former US Coordinator, International Communications and Information Policy, US Department of State
  • Veni Markovski, ICANN, Vice President for Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe
  • Jane Coffin, Director, Development Strategy, The Internet Society
  • Bill Smith, Senior Policy Advisor, Technology Evangelist, PayPal
  • Laura DeNardis, Associate Professor in the School of Communication, American University

Phil Verveer said that since the multi-stakeholder process creates inherent challenges, we need a better definition of “multi-stakeholder” to determine who participates and in what way. Among the considerations, he said, are that the U.S. created the Internet; the economic, social, political, and cultural influences the Internet has on the world; the dominance of U.S. sensibilities about content, which are not universally shared; and the threat of cybersecurity and the uncertainty of how to address it.

Veni Markovski, who lived in Bulgaria for 28 years, praised that country’s approach to the Internet. Hundreds of Internet providers are available to Bulgarians. And when the government tried to take control, the people sued and won. Markovski said education and development are key in the geopolitics of Internet governance. Different countries view the Internet in different ways, he said, and they all have different views of what it entails.

Jane Coffin agreed that education is essential to effective participation in Internet governance, noting that discussion is difficult when some languages, Russian, for example, don’t have a word for or an understanding of the concept of “multi-stakeholder.” Coffin felt strongly that the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) must play a role. She urged that the debate be broadened to include and listen to developing countries around the world.

Bill Smith observed that the agenda for almost every meeting on Internet governance over the past few years has been based on the Tunis agenda, and since the ITU is the only group mentioned in the agenda, it has tried to assert itself as the intergovernmental agency charged with defining Internet governance. Smith was critical of the ITU, doubting its ability to address important governance issues such as cybersecurity, spam, use and misuse of the Internet, privacy and personal data, and protection from abuse and exploitation.

Laura DeNardis observed that Internet governance debates can be “proxies” for debates over economic and political power, in part because it is entangled with national security, given its role in modern warfare. DeNardis described the complexity of Internet governance as a mosaic: complicated beyond the management abilities of any one entity.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the New gTLD Program issues were not raised until the Q&A session and, even then, were only touched upon lightly.

DeNardis said there is no technical need for new gTLDs and that they will create problems for trademark holders. On the other hand, she said businesses will find advantages in a larger domain name space and new possibilities for marketing innovations.

Markovski defended ICANN against a complaint that the New gTLD Program was implemented without diverse input, arguing that many governments around the globe participated via the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Jamie Hedlund, VP, Stakeholder Engagement – North America, for ICANN – was in the audience. He said ICANN is the only multi-stakeholder institution with a role for governments and that 124 governments are members of the GAC. He said ICANN believes the GAC was highly effective and influential in shaping the New gTLD Program.

Hedlund emphasized that the GAC Communiqué, drafted at the ICANN 46 meeting in Beijing, will be taken seriously by the ICANN board. ICANN’s credibility hinges on the effective contributions of governments, he said, echoing GAC Chair Heather Dryden’s comments in her recent video interview.