Why is it news now? Because, from January 12th, 2012 till April 12th, 2012, it will be accepting applications for new generic top-level domains (TLDs). The vote in favor of this change, held in Singapore before a thousand-strong audience of tech insiders and broadcast live online, was met with a standing ovation. A core deliverable of ICANN since its inception, new TLDs have been the subject of six years of intense debate contributing to ICANN’s bottom-up approach to policy making.
A hundred potential applicants have gone public over those six years with their ambitions to acquire new top level domains. These range from cities like .paris and .nyc, to brands like .canon and .hitachi, to verticals like .gay and .ski. For trademark owners, acquiring their own TLD creates a completely brand-safe online zone free from phishing, domain spoofing, knock-off sites, counterfeiting, and the gamut of other damaging activities that plague the Internet. Plus, a .brand TLD gives marketers the choice of any domain they want ending with their trademark. There is just no downside, except maybe for the price...
The application fee alone is $185,000, and the annual fee is $25,000. Still, we can imagine large corporations spending millions on these very soon. If you’re in the business of making phones, owning a “.phone” TLD sounds like a great idea — if you can afford outbidding other phone manufacturers.
One of the main reasons for the cost - both from a monetary as well as from a time perspective, since it can take anywhere from 12 to 20 months to have a request approved - is that it is doing lots of due diligence to try to settle the feasibility of a TLD before granting it to an organization. Moreover, ICANN wants to prevent domain squatters from grabbing TLDs.
Trademarks will be particularly difficult to manage. Although users do not need to own a Trademark to apply for a new TLD, the evaluation review will take any existing trademarks (from all over the world) into account when looking at the application.
In any case and in spite of the difficulties, on a global scale, the need for new TLDs derives from the drive for an altogether greater good — a more equitable Internet.