ICANN’s Selection of New Domains May include Louisville’s Commercial Connect

Retailers, brands, and celebrities will be impacted over the next 12 months as evaluation begins in June on the many new generic Top Level Domains (gTLD) up for delegation in this year.  This includes a possible game-changing .shop domain from Louisville’s Commercial Connect on 3rd St.  housed in the Bernheim Mansion.  Generic Top Level Domains are the extensions that make up a website address like .com, .org. and .biz.  The official round closing for applications is on May 30th.  Primary considerations for retailers, corporations, and registries applying, and paying the ICANN fee of $185,000 per gTLD, included protection of intellectual property for brands, enhancement of secure communications online, and an opportunity to invest in the internet real estate of the future.

Retail may see the following domains in the next year be live:  .hotel, .news, .car, .money, .free, .bank, .food, .homes and .shop.  On March 17, 2010, Japanese camera and printer manufacturer Canon became the first intellectual property owner to announce a bid.

ICANN announced that there were 2091 applications, totaling more than $350 million in fees to date, in the online new generic Top Level Domain Application System as of April 12th this year. Each registrant can apply for up to 50 new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD).  ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the private (non-government) non-profit corporation with responsibility for IP address space allocation, and, domain name system management.

Brand owners may face challenges in stopping infringement and cybersquatting in hundreds of new top level domains expected to launch next year. This expected comment period this summer for the public, and the upcoming opportunity to register with the Trademark Clearinghouse, present opportunities to protect trademarks.  Organizations, like The Bar Association of San Francisco, is moving to get brands ready, with seminars for lawyers.

The TLD applications online system, where the application process takes place, was taken offline on April 12th, due to software errors, and will be open in the next 7 days, for applicants to complete their finishing touches on their applications.  There were concerns that applicants could see other applicants’ documentation in 455 cases, and those that might have been compromised were officially notified, according to ICANN.

Most of the world using the Internet will not see changes of substance for at least a year from ICANN’s moves underway now.  But, the possibility of up to 2,000 new domain names per year is on the horizon, and may effect findability, sustainability, search, and analytics as well as consumer choice, trust and experience.  Demand Media’s e Nom, and Google have already publicly indicated that they have applied for a number of domains.  Demand Media has put up $18 million, according to its corporate quarterly filings. A special committee, called the Consumer Trust, Choice and Competition Working Group, was chartered by the GNSO (the Generic Names Supporting Names Organization formed to advise ICANN on policy) Council on September 7, 2011.  The Working group was formed to advice ICANN’s board with definitions, measures, and targets that could be useful to the Affirmation review team that will convene one year after new gTLDs are launched to insure competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice.

Retailers will find business promise in the delegation of .shop, which Founder Jeffrey Smith of Commercial Connect LLC based in Kentucky has pursued for more than 12 years.  “We are working on new technologies around security that will make a difference for both online retailers and consumers.  Our mission for Commercial Connect as registry is  to be an advocate and accountable for a better online shopping experience through .shop, that allows for a faster, safer, and more secure path for purchases handled as Internet transactions,” he said.

Smith has applied in earlier rounds this decade for .shop delegation, but the timing was not right for ICANN, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to take action.  ICANN has indicated this round that if meaningful use for .shop can be established, then delegation will occur.  Other applications are expected to be contenders as well. The applications will be graded on a pre-set scale with known parameters and if two applications or more are eligible for the same gTLD string based on points, there may be an auction.

In June, all applicants will be known and the applications will be available for public comment.