IGF-USA 2012 Workshop: The Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System – New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Their Implications for Users
Brief session description:
Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Early in 2012, ICANN launched the process to introduce vast numbers of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) — allowing, for the first time, the customization of Internet addresses to the right of the dot. Few people understand that there are already 22 existing gTLDs and 242 country code TLDs, with a total of 233 million registered second level names across all TLDs. In the coming years, these existing TLDs will be joined by numerous new gTLDs, likely resulting in the registration of millions of new second-level domains. Some will use scripts that are unfamiliar to English speakers or readers. How exactly these new gTLDs will impact the world of users and registrants is yet to be determined. Will they add significant new registration space, cause confusion, provide some unique innovations, or, most likely all of the above to some degree? ICANN received a wide range of applications – including brand names, generic terms, and geographic and regional terms. The workshop was organized to discuss Issues and questions including: changes to how domain name registrants and users may organize and search for information online; how defensive registrations may impact existing registrants; whether ICANN gave a sufficient focus to Internationalized Domain Names; how applications from potential registries from developing countries are supported; whether fraud and abuse that exists in the existing gTLD space will migrate easily into the new ‘spaces’ or even be compounded; and how conflicts between applicants from noncommercial sector will impact the users of the Internet.
Details of the session:
The session was moderated by Ron Andruff, president and CEO of DotSport, LLC. Panelists included:
- Laura Covington, associate general counsel for global brand and trademarks, Yahoo!
- Bobby Flaim, supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser, NTIA, and US Government Advisory Council representative at ICANN
- Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing, MarkMonitor (remote participant)
- Alan Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association
- Andrew Mack, principal and founder of AMGlobal Consulting
- Krista Papac, chief strategy officer for ARI Registry Services
Respondents were Dan Jaffe, executive vice president for government relations of the Association of National Advertisers, and Jeff Neuman, vice president for business affairs of Neustar and Generic Names Supporting Organization councilor at ICANN.
There is a mix of concern and optimism for how the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) will change the landscape of the Internet, but it’s certain that a new era of the Internet is coming.
A diverse panel at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center offering perspectives ranging from the side of brands to trademark security agreed on one thing: The introduction of new gTLDs will open the Internet up to more users, but also to more actors and cyber squatters. The panel agreed that the gTLD program will result in a tremendous amount of change, but how it will affect the landscape and whether that change is good, sparked the most discussion.
This year, there are 2.3 billion users of the Internet and 555 million websites. The numbers are staggering, considering the Internet is only about 14 years old, said moderator Ron Andruff, president and CEO of RNA Partners Inc.
There are 22 existing gTLDs – including .com, .net, .org and .edu – and 242 country code TLDs.
Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing at MarkMonitor, joined the panel remotely to give an analysis and breakdown of new gTLD application statistics.
Of 1,930 applications for a new gTLD, 652 were .Brand applications. Cooper divides the applications into three categories: brand names, community based and generic. The two flavors of generic are closed and open – the latter makes registries available to the general public with little eligibility requirements. Cooper also revealed:
- There is a relatively low number of Internationalized Domain Names – only 116.
- Geographically, the majority of the applications have come from North America and Europe.
- Of the .Brand applications – which go through the standard application process – technology,
media and financial sectors led the way.
- The most highly contested strings were .APP, .INC, .HOME and .ART
- The top three applicants were Donuts, Google and Amazon.
Laura Covington, who serves as chief trademark and brand counsel for Yahoo!, joined the panel from a .brand applicant company and offered a brand owner perspective. Yahoo! applied for .yahoo and .flickr
“I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities from a marketing perspective, even from a security perspective with the new gTLDs and the new .brands in particular,” Covington said. “And I also think that it’s going to have to change the face of how trademark owners, brand owners deal with their enforcement issues, how they approach protecting their marks going forward.”
Yahoo! is viewing the new gTLDs as an amazing new world and new way to reach customers, though Covington admits uncertainty toward what search engines will do once gTLDs are added to the mix of search algorithms. As a brand owner, she has concerns with how to deal with the second-level names because there will be an exponential increase in opportunity for cyber squatters.
Bobby Flaim, FBI special agent, is primarily concerned with the pre-existing problems with domestic and international law enforcement of the Internet and how the problems may worsen as bad actors become more prevalent.
The existing system has some major problems with cyber squatting, said Jaffe, group executive vice president of ANA. He said he didn’t want to be the panel’s doomsayer, but he added that no one should assume the new gTLD program will roll out in a smooth or timely manner.
One hugely positive impact of the new gTLDs Covington sees is an influx of new voices and new participants in the multistakeholder process.
Krista Papac, general manager of ARI Registry Services, agreed.
“I do have faith in the multistakeholder model and hope that we continue to find our way through it and deal with the different issues,” Papac said.
Papac is running some of the registries for the new gTLDs and sees a lot of opportunity to create more secure environments and more opportunities from brands.
Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser in the Office of International Affairs at NTIA and US GAC Representative, said that more people and more interest in the program will be crucial to ICANN’s evolution.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed that the benefits to consumers, to users are not outweighed by risks and costs,” Radell said. “So we’re looking very much forward to a review of the new gTLD program.”
Alan Drewsen, executive director of INTA, said he expects that the introduction of the new gTLDs will go more slowly and be less successful than hoped.
“ICANN will continue to exist, though I think it’s done everything possible to put its life in jeopardy,” Drewsen said, making the audience and panel laugh.
INTA has been critical of the process that ICANN has led over the last several years in introducing the new gTLDs.
“Given the amount of time and money that the members have invested in this process and the potential consequences that can flow from its failure, INTA will continue to work collaboratively with a lot of these constituencies to get the best possible results,” Drewsen said.
Andrew Mack, principal of AMGlobal Consulting, sees a large concentration in the global North and the English-speaking world. People in the global South won’t be able to participate in a program they don’t know exists. Seventeen gTLD applications are better than none, he said, but the number of applicants from other parts of the globa total to a paltry amount compared to highly connected regions already experiencing huge economic shifts due to the Internet. Mack said his pessimism is rooted in the fact that Africa and Asia are missing out when they could really benefit.
“And we want them to be part of our Internet,” Mack said.
There is an influx of new participants from existing participants, Neuman of Neustar noted.
The new gTLDs open up a lot of opportunities for business and marketing folks, but each person on the panel defined success in different ways.
“It’s definitely going to be an exciting time,” said Brian Winterfeldt, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson LLP. “I think we really are moving into sort of a new era of the Internet with this expansion and I think it’s going to be very exciting to see how it evolves.”
— Ashley Barnas