Dot Brand web extensions rush imminent

92-day application window to open in mid-January

Afilias, the domain name registry operations company behind .info, .mobi, and 14 other Top Level Domains (TLDs), is advising leading brands about the short time remaining before a new TLD application window opens. On 12 January 2012, a 92-day application window will open where businesses will be able to acquire and manage so-called 'dot Brand' web extensions, such as news.pepsi, which could be used instead of pepsi.com/news.

A press release says that seven years has passed since the last application round, when just seven TLDs were approved, but the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to allocate far more new extensions this time, many of which will be dot Brands. It also estimates it could be up to a decade until another application window opens. "Businesses need to get moving now if they are going to take advantage of this opportunity," said Roland LaPlante, CMO of Afilias.

Naturally, LaPlante cited benefits regarding owning a brand name as a web extension, such as making URLs "more memorable and more promotional", along with being able to "bolster consumer confidence and trust by effectively combating fraud and counterfeiting online". However, Vikki Chowney, news editor for Econsultancy, told .net that while there's potential in the dot Brand concept, it's not quite as straightforward as is being made out.

"For larger organisations, it's a case of reaffirming ownership of your own brand and making sure you have first-mover advantage over those with similar names. There's no need to worry about people camping on a domain since ICANN won't allow dot brand domains to be granted to anyone other than the owner," explained Chowney. "But the reputation management angle is what the majority of brands will act on, even though it's probably not appropriate to use dot Brand domains straight away. People are used to .com. And remember how long it took to stop people from adding 'www' every time they mentioned a website address? Even now addresses are sometimes referenced in that way. It'll be a long time before people get their heads around [dot Brand]".

Chowney told us it will be bigger brands that start the ball rolling, in part due to the high costs involved. And even then, she added that "ICANN plans to allocate a maximum of 500 dot Brand extensions each year and expects to receive thousands of applications," and, like Afilias, noted that it could be a decade before the application window opens again.