SUSIE GHARIB: Just when we’ve gotten used to typing names like dot com, dot net and dot org, a digital curveball may be coming our way. The organization that governs the Internet will start accepting applications on Thursday for a batch of new domain names, like dot shop or dot music. As Sylvia Hall reports, the change spells opportunity for some businesses but also poses new challenges for businesses trying to protect their brands.
SYLVIA HALL, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: We think of the Internet as a world of endless possibilities, tailed by a uniform dot com or dot org or dot net. Right now, web addresses can end only 22 ways. ICANN, the organization that issues digital domains, will start accepting applications for more on Thursday in a move that could add hundreds or even thousands, of new top domains to the Internet.
ROD BECKSTROM, PRESIDENT & CEO, ICANN: This heralds a new era in the domain name system and a significant new milestone in the history of the Internet. This will be the largest opening of top-level domains. Those are names to the right of the dot — in the history of the Internet.
HALL: That means web addresses will open up to new languages and new characters. Companies and interest groups can also buy their own names. Critics worry the application process will open an expensive name-grab where companies and non-profits empty their pockets to protect their brands.
DAN JAFFE, EXEC. VP, GOV’T RELATIONS, ASSOCIATION OF NATIONAL ADVERTISERS: A lot of companies have said that they feel that they may have to buy their own name back, basically.
HALL: The Association of National Advertisers has joined the chorus of those opposed, requesting that ICANN safeguard trademarks.
JAFFE: We have come forward with a proposal to ICANN saying that you should set up a registry — a do-not sell registry — and that for brand-holders who do not want to use their brands in a top-level domain, that for no cost, they should be able to put their name on that registry.
HALL: Jaffe’s still waiting to hear back on those proposals. But the names aren’t cheap and some say the cost alone will prevent cyber squatters from grabbing choice domains. It costs one $185,000 just to apply. Companies who win domains will have to pay $25,000 annually in fees. Karen Bernstein is helping a client apply for one of the registries.
KAREN BERNSTEIN, ATTORNEY, KAREN BERNSTEIN: It’s $185,000 to apply, so the chances that someone is going to take, say, dot Coke and pretend that they are Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) are going to be very limited.
HALL: Bernstein says the new domain names could also open a new chapter for trademarks. Up until now, the letters on the right side of a web address have not been subject to trademark laws. She says that could soon change. Sylvia Hall, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Washington.