Get ready for the new Internet
Almost all of us are familiar with e-mail addresses such as 'email@example.com' or visiting 'www.google.com' to perform a search of the internet. We give little thought as to what “.com” means although many will be aware that some addresses have different endings. Over the next few years these endings will likely be noticed more as they are set to alter out of all recognition.
The last letters of any e-mail or internet address are termed the 'top level domain'. The list of these TLD's is maintained by the 'internet Assigned Numbers Authority'. Only domains authorised by IANA are permitted and to date these have been very limited. In 1984 a set of general purpose domains were authorised such as “.com”. Around the same time 'country-code top level domains' developed. These are two letter TLD's reserved for sovereign states (i.e. “.bm” for Bermuda). The only changes to these have been a limited number of 'generic' TLD's (“gTLD's”) that were created such as ”.aero”.
In 2008 ICANN took a “significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains”. This will soon to reach its conclusion with applications for new gTLDs being accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012. It is expected that up to 1000 new gTLD's will be registered creating significant revenue for ICANN as applications cost US$185,000.00. Many of these domains will be registered by companies wishing to protect their intellectual property. Other major applicants are likely to include geographic domains such as cities (i.e. New York) and groups wishing to create 'communities' such as “. eco” or “. sport”. The ability to now use non-Latin characters (such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, etc) further expands the potential market for these domains.
A lengthy application process will reduce the number of speculative applicants who do not have sufficient financial and/or technical background. Further, any geographic or community application must have appropriate support from a recognised representative.
Considerable opposition has arisen from those who see this as a threat to their own intellectual property. In the past cybersquatters have tried to hold trade mark owners to ransom by registering infringing domains. By allowing many hundreds of new TLD's those same rights holders now expect to either have to register their own trademarks many hundreds of times for each TLD at considerable annual expense, or to litigate with potential infringers.
If you are interested in this extension of the Internet domain 'space' you should visit http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/. Businesses with trade marks to protect should consider what action if any they may need to take. Unofficial lists of announced gTLD applications may be found at: http://valideus.com/resources/gtlds-list/.
Information provided by the Department of E-Commerce, Ministry of Business Development and Tourism