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Google sets precedent for new gTLDs to be open

Stephen Ewart, marketing manager at names.co.uk, on how Google is intending to allow more open use of any gTLDs they acquire. But not everyone is following suit

Historically, there have only ever been 22 generic TLDs (top-level domains) on the internet, which include .com, .org, and .net alongside a number of country code top-level domains such as .me and .co. But this is soon set to change.  

In 2005, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) began a policy development process to consider the introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), based on the results of trial rounds conducted in 2000 and 2003. ICANN is making preparations to begin the release of over 1,000 new gTLDs. This move will bring about the biggest change the internet has ever seen.

These new extensions are significant because they can easily identify the markets in which a company operates and the type of business they do in a way the previous .com’s could not. For example, .music and .sport immediately allow the user to identify the nature of the website’s content. As such many firms have wanted to get their hands on several of these generic terms such as .blog, .love, .school, .kid, .music, .home, .buy, .mail, .eat, .movie, .car, .author, the list goes on ...

The cost for companies to apply for these new gTLDs comes at a steep price of  $185,000 per application, with further operating costs if their application is successful. This financial factor has been a massive barrier to entry and has prevented smaller companies from being able to apply. As such, it was mainly the large global brands that were in a position to apply for this unique opportunity and, unlike .com, .net, etc that are public/open TLDs, many of the brands that have applied for the new domain name extensions have stated that they intend to keep them for their own exclusive use.

Google was one such brand that initially announced an intention of “exclusive use” in some of their applications. Google made a play for almost 100 new top level domains including .app, .search, .blog and .cloud. In its initial application for .app, Google stipulated that they intended to restrict the use of this gTLD to Google applications. It's unsurprising that this caused governments and the industry to react and put pressure on both Google and ICANN to stop such anti-competitive measures.

Climb-down

News coming out during the recent ICANN meeting in Beijing indicates that Google has taken note. At the event, ICANN published a letter Google had sent explaining that they now intend to review their applications for .app, .blog, .cloud and .search. The letter detailed how it has revised its applications for these new gTLDs and confirmed that it intends to open up these domains to be more inclusive. For example, .app will be completely dedicated to application developers, meaning that all app developers would be able to use it.

This sharp U-turn from Google on some of its applications meant that the company had to alter its whole business model for extensions, setting a precedent for other large brands looking to maintain exclusivity over generic terms.

But not everyone is listening …

Amazon, who is already known for engaging in monopoly practices in the area of digital books through the nature of the Kindle model, applied for private ownership of the gTLD, .book, among others. Similar to .app, many would agree that this is too generic a term for one business to use exclusively. Authors, publishers and critics would miss out on the opportunity to tap into the .book web space under Amazon's current application. Despite this, and the public move by Google, Amazon has, as far as we are aware, made no attempts to alter its applications.

Without doubt there is certainly going to be even more debate over the coming months as the argument continues against private companies, such as Amazon and L’Oreal to own generic words for domain name extensions.

It is with baited breath that the internet world awaits ICANNs next announcement about whether closed generic TLD’s are deemed to be in the best interest of our internet.

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