Should Google, Amazon And Others Be Able To Lock Up New Generic Top Level Domains For Their Own Use?

from the wasn't-quite-the-idea... dept

For many years, we've noted that the entire setup of ICANN rolling out new top level domains (TLDs) was a complete joke, often driven by ICANN members who were in positions to be the registrars and registers for those new domains. Thus, all they seemed to do was create money out of thin air for those companies, since there was no actual demand for the TLDs, but companies felt obligated to buy them up anyway, to "keep them out of the hands" of critics, scammers or others. And, certainly a big fear when ICANN decided to offer up its big "generic TLD" setup, whereby anyone could make a play for any new TLD, was that the whole thing was a boondoggle for domain registers and registrars with which to set up a whole bunch of new tollbooths.

However, a funny thing happened along the way. While there certainly were a bunch of those kinds of TLDs applied for (many with competing claims fighting for the right to cash in), what became more interesting was the fact that the list of applications was absolutely dominated by Google and Amazon seeking to gain control over a very long list of TLDs. In fact, we noted that in many cases, Google and Amazon were lined up head to head competing over who would gain control over those TLDs. For example, they're competing with each other (and with some others) for the rights to .book, .shop, .store, .free, .game, .search, .play, .movie, .show, .mail, .map, .spot, .talk, .wow, .you and .cloud. And both of those companies are going for a bunch of others where they're not competing with each other. Google, for example, wants (among other things) .car, .dad, .mom, .dog, .family, .fyi, .plus, .tour, .prod, .here, .prof, .phd, meme., .lol, .day, .love and more.

As you look down the list, you begin to realize that while the initial fear of registers and registrars shaking down everyone to buy new domain names to "protect" their trademarks was a legitimate concern, there was a second serious concern as well: that a bunch of these new gTLDs were not being applied for to set up a registry where anyone could obtain those kinds of domains, but rather to lock them up for one company's use. And while Amazon and Google are the most prominent players here, lots of other companies jumped in as well. Hasbro wants .transformers. Johnson and Johnson wants .baby (so do a bunch of others). Ralph Lauren wants .polo. Travelers Insurance wants the completely ridiculous .redumbrella, while Nationwide Insurance wants .onyourside. Monster Cable (of course) wants .monster.

While some of those more specific ones wouldn't have any demand for anyone else to register anyway, there is a growing concern that companies might lock up certain TLDs, rather than make them available for registering. I'm sure lots of car companies would like theirname.car. But would that be possible?

Apparently, ICANN -- whose boss has already admitted that they're in way over their heads on these new gTLDs -- is now considering whether or not such a use of a gTLD should even be allowed.
But companies such as Amazon, Google, Goodyear, L'Oreal and others also applied for a wide array of words and indicated that they would like to operate the registry as "closed" -- meaning they may not allow other firms to buy what are known as second-level domains.

Clearly, companies want to own and control generic words as domains so that they can offer their services. But with that comes the possibility of blocking competitors who want to attach their brand to a term. For example, Ford might want to buy ford.truck but be blocked from doing so by the owner of .truck.
The article quotes someone from a hosting firm who notes that "It is inherently in the public interest to allow access to ... new [generic top-level domains] to the whole of the Internet Community, e.g., .BLOG, .MUSIC, .CLOUD."

Of course, there is the flipside to this argument as well -- such TLDs that are simply locked up for a single company or service are also not on the market, meaning that they're not another in the long list of domains companies feel they "need to buy" purely for defensive reasons. Either way, at least one (still unnamed) applicant who is competing with a bunch of these companies for a few of the new gTLDs is hiring people to lobby Congress and the EU Parliament not to allow firms to lock up any new gTLD.

In the end, I think our original conclusion still stands: the whole gTLD process appears to be a continuing boondoggle for certain companies, whether it's to lock up certain TLDs or to sell off domains to people and companies who don't really want them, but feel compelled to pay up anyway.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 6:59pm

    "Of course, there is the flipside to this argument as well -- such TLDs that are simply locked up for a single company or service are also not on the market, meaning that they're not another in the long list of domains companies feel they "need to buy" purely for defensive reasons."

    Don't worry. If there are THAT many top level domains, companies will quickly realize that buying ALL of them is an exercise in futility.

    Also, if they're actually going to make me type ".onyourside" at the end of their domain name, I'm not going to use that insurance company.

     

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      timmaguire42 (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 6:06am

      Re:

      Right now, things are simple. almost every address ends in [dot] three letters. If it's government, it's .gov, if it's nonprofit, it's .org, anything else is probably .com

      How is the public served by all this extra crap they have to remember?

      And I agree completely, I am far less likely to visit .transformers than I am .com. If I have to type it in, I'm not going to bother.

       

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        Aaron Wolf (profile), Feb 25th, 2013 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re:

        NO! Please be aware, .org is a totally open domain NOT restricted to non-profit!

        .gov is restricted, .edu is restricted, .coop is restricted. These domains indicate something reliable about the site.

        .org, .net, and .gov, and many others are totally open. Do not assume ANYTHING about a .org site.

         

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          elemecca (profile), Feb 25th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Which is why they phrased it the other way around: "if it's nonprofit it's .org", not "if it's .org it's nonprofit". The converse of a statement does not necessarily follow.

           

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 7:00pm

    Why can't Ford "lock up" .ford?

    Isn't this (sort of Reverse Polish Notation) order good enough? Why would Ford want ford.truck TOO? Are they then going to want ALL combinations of several generic words? ... Seems unlikely to me. It'll work out, at least for reasonable cases.

    However, GOOD point with giant companies that have the cash and interest to lock up MANY generic names with dog-in-the-manger attitude. Let's just limit all corporations or subsidiaries from having over, say, six TLDs. -- But at least you're beginning to recognize that corpoations can be TOO BIG.

    Question: WHY run this fairly interesting item late on Friday? After DULL tripe all week?



    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up at same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    Where "no evidence of real harm" means let secretive mega-corporations continue to grow.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 7:32pm

      Re: Why can't Ford "lock up" .ford?

      I think you have the dull.tripe all locked up, so don't worry.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 10:43pm

      Re: Why can't Ford "lock up" .ford?

      Just lock'em up and sort it out later...unless you're drunk...

       

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      PaulT (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 4:52am

      Re: Why can't Ford "lock up" .ford?

      "Question: WHY run this fairly interesting item late on Friday? After DULL tripe all week?"

      You were pretty dull this week, I'll give you that. A lot of the stories were interesting - everything from courts attacking free speech right to book sellers fighting against DRM to the RIAA once again showing it doesn't have a clue how to use the Internet. What's the matter, no stories you can;t distort in order to make a pithy lie? You had to think about what was written? Poor baby...

      But I love the way you think that Techdirt is now your personal blog, onl posting stories that interest you and screw everybody else's opinion. Your obsessive idiocy truly knows no bounds. You're certainly not on form. Even your "signature" is more pointless that normal.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 7:08pm

    The original purpose of DNS was to organize domain names in a meaningful structured way.

    Since that's completely gone out of the window a long time ago maybe we can drop the whole .net, .com, . thing and get something else instead?

    Something like, every new registration gets .new and people would get to vote (in an automated way) who gets the 'top level domains'. So google would get .google etc in a way that's relevant (decided by the public).

    This would all be free of course (I'm sure you can get it sponsored by some internet companies).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 7:21pm

    La la la
    Whatever
    La la la
    Doesn't matter
    La la la
    Oh well...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 8:03pm

    Really?

    "Should Google, Amazon And Others Be Able To Lock Up New Generic Top Level Domains For Their Own Use?

    Leading the witness...

    ICANN is just like ALL Govts throughout history -
    They become full of themselves,
    Declare their righteousness,
    Pass down “what they consider wrong” or righteous,
    Impose their will,
    Repress the people,
    Threaten the people,
    Inflict their mandate by force,
    Kill off the dissenters,
    Rule by Fear.

    Welcome to ICANN, may I imprison your future…

     

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    Zos (profile), Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 8:56pm

    fuck this nonsense. we need a new internet. this one is well on it's way toward being skullfucked into uselessness.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 10:14pm

    I can't wait for the .free to roll around I have some GG domains registered. Including Google.free and Yahoo.free rofl. Though them two will remain inert I just want to say that I own them.
    almost.free
    always.free
    blog.free
    browser.free
    coupon.free
    coupons.free
    elite.free
    epic.free
    funny.free
    google.free
    graphics.free
    information.free
    jokes.free
    lol.free
    mmorpg.free
    money.free
    movie.free
    movies.free
    omfg.free
    phone.free
    photoshop.free
    rpg.free
    superman.free
    tutorials.free
    yahoo.free

    I also came across another good one to use for my email.

    ilove@vicodin.es rofl ^^

     

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    Anonymous Cowherd, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 1:22am

    TLDs are obsolete

    TLDs are a waste of everyone's time. It's nothing but a pain in the ass to remember what meaningless suffix whatever site's address had.

    Since they don't actually mean anything anymore, and anyone can have whatever random suffix they feel like anyway, they should get retired. Let sites choose their address freely down to the last letter. There's no need to have "standard" suffixes since their standard meaning has been lost ages ago.

    Selling "ownership" of additional suffixes is an irresponsible cash-grab that only creates more problems for everyone.

     

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      The Real Michael, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 5:40am

      Re: TLDs are obsolete

      I'm not surprised. Capitalism will find ways to monetize everything under the sun. Heck, they have the gall to think that they're in a position to sell the stars in the universe (yes, literally) to people so that they can own and name them.

      The standard .com, .net and .org suffixes are good enough for me.

       

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    PaulT (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Hmmm... Part of me thinks that companies shouldn't be allowed to do this, but the other part of me simply thinks "who cares?". All of these new TLDs are just a cash grab by ICANN, nobody will really use them so I'm not particularly bothered that ICANN gets all their cash from a handful of companies rather than more. I wish Google and Amazon hadn't bothered, but if they wish to waste their money here while still providing decent services elsewhere, so be it.

     

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    Kevin (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 7:29am

    Icaan so Iwill

    ICAAN is starting to look more like Hallmark Cards. Create a new "Special" day to sell more cards.
    Companies have enough on their plate being having to register county based domains or ccTLDs (.uk; .au; and the rarely used .us) To fully protect a domain name one would need to register of 300 ccTDLs.
    Now multiply those 300+ by the number of level one domain names (.net.au or .biz.au) then do the math with alternative such as au.biz or us.biz we are already over whelmed with TDLs.
    Enough is enough.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 9:30am

    ICANN

    "Should Google, Amazon And Others Be Able To Lock Up New Generic Top Level Domains For Their Own Use?"

    No. Google and Amazon shouldn't even have the option to buy TLDs. In other words, the blame here lies squarely with ICANN.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 10:49am

    I see where this is going.

    IANAL defines some TLD's as universal and the rest is left for the doggy dog world.

    That until someone starts to sue IANAL for obstructing them from gaining a monopoly at some TLD, so IANAL will claim that it should always has the power to seize a TLD if it makes sense and others will of course disagree and throw tonnes of money at the issue to make it possible to close up TLD's as they see fit.

    This will turn into poop again.

     

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      nasch (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 11:23am

      Re:

      IANAL defines some TLD's as universal and the rest is left for the doggy dog world.

      You mean ICANN? And dog eat dog?

       

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      PaulT (profile), Feb 24th, 2013 @ 2:24am

      Re:

      It's already been covered, but you have your acronyms mixed up. ICANN is the name of the organisation being discussed here. IANAL is an acronym which stands for "I Am Not A Lawyer".

      "doggy dog world."

      Unless your name is Snoop Dogg, the saying is "dog eat dog world".

      Other than that, you have a point, which is probably why nobody's going to use these new TLDs seriously. Other than the hurdle of getting people to use them and the expense involved, it really does give ICANN even more power than they already do - and the organisation has already shown that it's more than willing to agree to shut down .com domains over shaky claims.

       

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    Wally (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 7:07pm

    I wonder why Apple isn't on that list...oh right...they don't bribe ICANN for their own personal gain :-D

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 7:57pm

    Well, slightly off subject. I registered a Domain name with Go Daddy. It is a D&D character's name so not even remotely related to anything. I let it lapse for a couple of years and I just tried to re-register it and guess what, Go Daddy has the name and will sell it to me for an $80 negotiation fee along with whatever the supposed owner wants for it.

     

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  •  
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    Svante Jørgensen, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 3:37am

    The ultimate web address

    I demand the exclusive use of the TLD ".internet" to register "website.internet" because, you know, I have a website and it is on the internet, so it should belong to me!

     

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    Lennart Regebro, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 4:09am

    I would recommend that both Google and Mozilla in their browsers automatically pop up a "This site is probably a scam" as soon as any of the new TLD's pop up.

    That should make people stop using them very soon.

     

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  •  
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    Lonyo, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Reasonable solution:
    If you own the trademark, you can keep the TLD closed.

    If you don't own the trademark, you must keep the TLD open, and you cannot charge unreasonable amounts to let people register a domain on that TLD. You can also reserve some domains for your own use, but you must actually use them within x months, otherwise other people should be allowed to use them.

     

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      nasch (profile), Feb 24th, 2013 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      If you own the trademark, you can keep the TLD closed.

      It's not that simple. For one thing, trademarks aren't worldwide, but the TLD system is. For another, they aren't economy-wide. For example, Monster Energy Drinks and Monster Cables. Both (not to mention the Monster job board and probably others) have a legitimate claim on .monster.

      For an interesting similar story involving Nissan Motors and Nissan Computers, see here.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    How on earth did you run this article and let Johnson & Johnson's bid for ".AFAMILYCOMPANY" go unmentioned?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2013 @ 11:26am

    I don't see the problem. That's already the way a combination of second-level and top-level domains work (there can be only one google.com, and most google.tld combos are locked up as well). Why does it matter if that's also the case for a newly-created TLD?

     

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    DeadSurvivor, Feb 26th, 2013 @ 2:40pm

    Sheesh ...

    For me, these gTLDs are not appealing.

     

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    identicon
    Stop ICANN, Apr 6th, 2013 @ 7:20pm

    mess.internet
    internet.mess
    money.google
    google.money
    greed.com
    com.greed
    get.aclue
    lawsuits. galore

    Get the picture?
    Asinine.
    A license to print money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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