Biz Views

Practical Techie: New commercial domains will light the cybersky

Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com. Author Rafael Matos is professor of multimedia at a private university and director of the Caribbean Multimedia Center, a nonprofit media lab focusing on closing the digital divide. Questions should be sent to cccrafael@gmail.com.

The year 2013 will go down in Web history as the time when new top-level generic domain names came to be.

Finally. And exactly 30 years after the Domain Name System was introduced into to what was then the brand new commercial Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit agency that rules the Internet’s address book and manages all its domains, is currently considering the expansion of “top-level” domains that are in operation on the Internet. Top-level domains are the suffixes to addresses and include familiar endings such as .com, .org and .net.

Every tiny document, any immense database or a simple website, must all have an address to exist in cyberspace. It takes the shape of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), or simply, a digital address.

Domain designations serve as memorable names for us humans to, well, easily remember as a Web location. The much technical and complex numerical system for addresses was substituted in 1983.

A generic domain name may sometimes define an entire category of business that a company is involved in, for example, car-sales.com, hotelrooms.com, studybooks.edu, smartphones.net or artisthaven.org. Companies have created successful brands based on a generic domain names, such as IBM.com or Disney.net.  In 2010, the number of active domains reached 196 million, according to the Verisign research project.

So, by late 2013 or early 2014, businesses, organizations and communities will have access to totally new and practical domain names. This is important for the business world online because local businesses will be able to benefit from city and geographical domain extensions such as .SCOT, .NYC and .TOKYO. Special interest domain names will also be available such as .SPORT, .ART, .NEWS and .MUSIC. That is, names more relevant to your type of business.

Streamline system
One of ICANN’s roles is to is to enable competition and diversity online and to ensure the domain name system operates safely and securely on a global scale. If this system were not available, it would be impossible to remember website addresses. It helps prevent the manipulation of data that can drive traffic to alternative websites, using digital trickery.

As of today, there are 22 generic top-level domains that will expand to at least a 1,000 new ones. The first round of applications for the new generic names opened in January and closed last month.

Examples of domains already applied for includes .BBC, .BANK, .GOOGLE and .LONDON, with many firms competing for ownership of single domains. Similarly, car manufacturers have requested to incorporate their brands, such as .CAR.

Growing concerns
Concerns have been raised that increasing the number of domains will only increase the number of potential web addresses that could be obtained by so-called cybersquatters. It occurs when people buy domain names by the thousands and “park” them in the Web with the purpose of selling them on to trademark owners for a hefty profit.

This happened to the PUERTORICO.com domain name in 1986. No one in government took care to protect the island domain and a cybersquatter from New York acquired it and offered to sell it for a few million dollars to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Eventually, after costly litigation, an agreement was reached but not made public.

The moral for such an event is that a new business owner or project developer, even an upcoming artist, should grab on early to its top-level generic brand name.

Madonna and the late Michael Jackson went through such lapses and paid dearly to finally secure their artistic brand names for the Web.

The new set of top-level generic domain names brings it with another set of legal complications. Companies should be aware of potential new “internationalized” naming that could be registered in languages other than English, such as Chinese, Russian, Japanese, etc.

Names already in English could be allowed to be registered in other languages, thus causing duplicity and confusion.

The experts are working on this before approval and to offset such practices.

Safe locks amid more controversy
ICANN proposes four key points in its new Registry Agreement:

  • Include a Trademark Clearinghouse that will serve as a one-stop shop where trademark holders can protect their rights.
  • Provide for a process for a rapid, efficient way to take down infringing domain names.
  • Provide a procedure where trademark rights holders can assert claims directly against a registry operator for domain name abuse if that operator has played an active role in the abuse.
  • Require registry operators to have a single point of contact responsible for handling abuse complaints.

Controversy is already ongoing on this.  Internet purists complain that with the new 1,930 applications, ICANN — as a nonprofit corporation — raised just over $357 million for the requests. Many call it a money grab.

The U.S.-created entity was also in the news last spring, when it approved the .xxx domain. Religious moralists had given a long battle to avoid the creation of the new domain for adult content.

Also, the “.NYC” domain is now a reality, the first city to get its own.  We will soon see pizza.nyc, instead of pizza.com

My advive to all internauts:  Keep a close eye on Web developments. The days of a simple, free, open and truly global Internet are shrinking.

Surely, the Internet is getting too crowded. Too complex.

Comment here