Beginning January 12, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will be accepting applications for newly available top-level domain names beyond the typical .com and .net variety. Some of the new domain offerings you might see are .book and .aero and (stop me if you've heard this one before) .xxx.
Still, as fun as it might be to register face.book or lexa.pro, those site pranks will cost you a cool $185,000 a pop.
That price tag might seem like a strong enough preventive measure to keep everyday buffoons from taking advantage of the names of corporations but the U.S. government is still wary of ICANN's new offerings. Lawerence Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information for the Department of Commerce, met with representatives from several businesses to discuss ICANN's decision. As Bloomberg puts it, "General Electric Co. (GE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO) are among more than 40 companies that have joined with the Association of National Advertisers to oppose the expansion, saying it will increase costs for companies, confuse customers and create new risks of Internet fraud."
In a letter to ICANN citing concerns of potential cybersquatting of websites including brand names and increased confusion among consumers, ANA President Robert D. Liodice wrote:
The ANA and its membership regard the Program as not merely unsupportable, but potentially disastrous — exacting outrageous fees and costs, requiring massive diversion of resources, and instituting an application, evaluation and dispute resolution process that is certain to lead to increased contention and costly federal and international legal action with no demonstrable benefit to businesses or consumers. These concerns are especially heightened in an economy that day by day continues to pose ever-increasing challenges and unprecedented uncertainties for businesses and consumers worldwide. Another layer of unnecessary and unjustifiable costs is the last thing the selling and buying public needs in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Corporations already patrol the Internet for websites that they believe violate trademarks. Additionally, they don't want you getting your rocks off at the expense of their namesake. Just try visiting microsoft.xxx, facebook.xxx, apple.xxx, amazon.xxx, or even twitter.xxx. All of these URLs present visitors with the same message:
And yeah, you barely even need to take one guess as to who the owners of those respective domains might be. Corporations have a steady practice of snatching up websites that they have zero intention of using solely to prevent the URLs from being used by cybersquatters and shady businesses.
ICANN acknowledged all of the above concerns and stated that they're "going to go slow" in divvying out the new URLs to applicants. Regardless, Reuters reports that "ICANN has no plans to delay rollout of the top level domain expansion, a goal that is to allow more innovation in website addresses and to open the space to the non-Latin alphabets. It has pledged a quick take-down for trademark violators under the new system."
All said, it seems a little presumptuous of businesses to assume that the average Internet user would be duped by a site like facebook.xxx. Besides, who's to say that apple.xx wouldn't be a legitimate site? Maybe there's an untapped market out there for people with antediluvian fetishes that such a URL would perfectly satisfy? Besides, it's not just anybody that's going to fork over nearly $200K in order to create such a website. As Mr. Liodice mentioned above, the U.S. economy is still in crisis and people might wanna hold onto that money for more meaningful purposes.
What do you think? Is this brand protection overkill or do these corporations have a fair complaint for protecting their brand? Add your comments to the discussion below.