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.