Domain names go beyond .com
Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, speaks on expanding the number of domain name suffixes during a news conference in London on Wednesday.
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If the trademark "The World's Favorite Ketchup" isn't enough to steer garnish-less consumers to H.J. Heinz's website, a domain name claiming all things ketchup might do the trick.
The Pittsburgh condiment conglomerate's idea to support a .com with a .ketchup is one of 1,930 proposals made to the United Kingdom-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the organization now considering proposals for new, so-called generic top-level domain names beyond familiar ones like .org and .net.
Downtown-based PNC Financial Group confirmed that the Pittsburgh bank is also among the hundreds of names on ICANN's new domain registration list, while Findlay-based chemical company Lanxess declined to say if the Lanxess that appears on the official list is the same one reached via the Parkway West.
ICANN, which began accepting applications to expand the number of Internet addresses in January, unveiled the list of applicants Wednesday during a Reveal Day presentation in London.
As catchy as Heinz's potential domain seems at first glance, ketchup falls into the realm of normal on a list where companies hope to attach their names to digital tags such as .meme, .LOL or the Gallo Vineyard's brow-raising submission of .barefoot.
The cities of New York and Paris have both applied for top-level domains as well as billion-dollar corporations such as the NFL, NBA and Amazon.
ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said the changes will expand domain name options and allow for more targeted marketing options at a time when more than 140 million registered domains are vying for exposure, according to WHOIS, a service provided by Washington D.C.-based domain research company domaintools.com.
"We are standing at the cusp of a new era of online innovation. That means new businesses, new marketing tools, new jobs and new ways to link communities and share information," Mr. Beckstrom said.
The changes will not automatically put top-level domain names at the forefront of Internet searches, but will provide thousands of new options to search by subject matter or brand, said Stanley Ference, founding partner of Sewickley-based intellectual property and technology law firm Ference and Associates.
"Instead of Steelers.com, maybe you'll have Steelers.NFL or shop.NFL," he said.
The new system comes with a hefty price tag and even heavier responsibilities.
Prospective buyers must pay an $185,000 evaluation fee, which includes a $5,000 deposit fee that goes toward the first application request. Additionally, rather than being responsible for a single site under a registered domain, buyers will become responsible for an entire network that operates under the new domain they create.
In other words, if .ketchup email addresses ever come to pass, it will be up to Heinz to make sure messages are delivered, received and secured. Heinz representatives declined to comment.
"Please note that applying for a new [domain] is not the same as buying a domain name. An applicant ... is, in fact, applying to create and operate a registry business supporting the Internet's domain name system. This involves a number of significant responsibilities ... ," reads a frequently-asked-questions section on ICANN's website.
Another kink to work out during the first portion of the expansion process is choosing between companies fighting for a single domain.
For example, only one of the 13 companies that filed for the rights to an .app domain will be chosen and the remaining companies will not be allowed to choose names that are "confusingly similar." Companies are encouraged to resolve conflicts among themselves, but an ICANN panel could conduct a community priority evaluation to determine which applicant's goals represent a majority of the community being chosen as a domain name.
Sixty-six of the applications submitted were for geographic names ranging from Budapest to Moscow.
There is also recourse for unlucky organizations that happen to share a name with someone applying for a generic top-level domain.
The program is in the midst of a 60-day public comment period and anyone seeking to oppose an application will have seven months to file a formal objection.
Mr. Ference said there's much to gain from allowing companies to have their brand as a domain name, but also some risk for company owners hoping to protect property rights due to an increased chance for fraudulent sites on new domains. That risk, he believes, is worth taking for a brand with momentum.
"Let's say PNC had PNC.com, PNC.org, .biz, .net and .info. Does PNC now have to take steps to prohibit somebody from registering PNC.law?" he questioned.
"For trademark owners, there's the prospect that as the number of domains expand, that increases the borders to police. But it also will provide more global domains for businesses and consumers to utilize, and for certain companies it will provide a bit of marketing."
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am