ICANN Has Problemz?

Sean Carton

Let the new gold rush begin!

Well, that's what the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) seems to imply on its site, announcing the opening of the new generic top-level domains program, which launched on January 12 (the day I'm writing this column). It's right there on the home page: "Starting today," crows the banner taking up a good third of the home page, "Someone will discover the next big .thing!" (Clever use of that "." BTW.)

If you haven't heard, the "next big thing" is that it's now possible for you (provided you have $185,000 lying around) to create your own top-level domain name. Forget about those boring .com's, .net's, and .org's…tomorrow's Internet's going to feature designer top-level domains (.think .aardvark, .deals, or .republicans) that all of us are going to be clamoring to register for. Why should Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have to settle for MittRomney.com when he could have MittRomney.republicans or MittRomney.president ? Heck, if someone decided to shell out the dough to create the new TLD, he could even own MittRomney.checkoutmyhair if he wanted it.

And that's exactly the problem. What TLD should his campaign register in order to make sure that nobody out there "hijacks" his name? What if he neglected to buy the ".sucks" TLD and somebody created "MittRomney.sucks?" He might not even have to forget to buy it: according to the ICANN gTLD FAQ (#1.9 if you're wondering), "new TLD operator[s] may choose not to sell all second-level registrations." Don't like a new TLD but want to protect your brand by registering (and sitting on) your domain name? You could be SOL if the owner decides they just don't feel like selling you your domain name.

Whether the new gTLDs are a gold rush or not remains to be seen, but they're definitely a ...

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