In this post, Organic Search Manager Rupali Shah discusses ICANNâ€s latest proposal to grow beyond 21 domain extensions and how you can prevent â€œcyber squatting.â€
Q: How does the system of domain names and extensions work?
Rupali: To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your browser address bar - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so the computers know where to find each other. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) coordinates these unique identifiers across the world using domain names and extensions relating to type such as .com, .org, .edu or country codes such as .uk, .fr, etc. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet.
ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. Through its coordination role of the Internetâ€™s naming system, it has an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.
Q: How competitive have domain names become?
Rupali: Very. Pizza.com was sold for $2.6 million, men.com for $1.3 million, business.com for $7.5 million and loans.com had the price tag of $3 million.
Domain name sales have become an industry with high returns for some cyber squatters. Cyber squatters are individuals that foresee the re-sale potential of a domain name before a company or person realizes the worth of owning it.
There have been famous instances of trademarks and names of celebrities becoming targets of cyber squatters in the hopes of making a quick buck. Two very famous cyber squatting incidences were: madonna.com and hotmail.co.uk
The hotmail.co.uk case was a domain renewal hijacking incident which caused the company some embarrassment as they missed the renewal date of their existing and working domain name.Â
Q: How will ICANN address the competition for desirable domain names?
Rupali: With the Internet maturing and marketing on the Internet becoming more than a vanity based venture, the lawsuits against cyber squatting are declining in number. However, a recent announcement by ICANN may potentially cause ripples in the calm waters once again.
In June 2008, a proposal was approved by ICANN which will allow registration of unlimited number of Top Level Domains (TLDs) or extensions not restricted to the 21 familiar ones such as .com, .net, .gov and .org.Â Think .microsoft, .dell, .cocacolaÂ
Along with the brand names, ICANN has also approved geo-Top Level Domains such as names of cities and countries. This opens up the possibilities for all countries, cities and locations around the world. Think .nyc, .germany, .chennai, .timessquare. Generic terms are also included in the proposal such as .news, .sports, .weather, .travel.
Q: How can someone claim one of the new domain extensions?
Rupali: ICANN will organize a limited period during which applications will go through an evaluation process. The ICANN application period does not begin until the second quarter of 2009. To avoid cyber squatting and hijacking of Top Level Domains, ICANN will introduce an objection-based mechanism for trademark owners and relevant authorities. However, the most likely deterrent for cyber squatters will possibly be the price tag which will potentially be upwards of half a million dollars.
Although opening up the domain extension options seems an excellent way to prevent scarcity of domain names in the future, the price tag may prove to be too much, even for corporations who would be inclined to register product based brand names in addition to the main company brand name. Think .ipod, .windows, .dietcoke
Q: How can a company protect its domain name?
Rupali: Here are some effective ways to protect your domain name against cyber squatters:
1. Assign responsibility for domain name renewal and include it in the job description. To avoid cyber squatters gaining control of your domain name when it expires, assign someone to keep track of the registration.
2. Maintain updated technical contact information on the domain name registration. Many times the person who registered the domain name for the organization moves on but the name remains in the contact information with the registrar.
3. Be aware of phishing. Never share your account information on email as cyber squatters can pose as the registrar via email to access this information.
About Rupali Shah
Rupali is an Organic Search Manager. She works with large websites in a variety of sectors such as media, communication, IT and travel. Rupali has a post graduate degree in Computer Science and a degree in Commerce. In her international career she has also worked in software development and publishing. A regular conference presenter, Rupali most recently spoke at the PubCon Conference in Las Vegas in November.