Monday, June 30, 2008

ICANN'T becomes ICANN?

While I'm here a quick comment on the big news of the week, namely ICANN's rather unexpected decision to open up the top level domain name (TLd) space to auction.

"A complete overhaul of the way in which people navigate the internet has been given the go-ahead in Paris. The net's regulator, Icann, voted unanimously to relax the strict rules on so-called "top-level" domain names, such as .com or .uk.

The decision means that companies could turn brands into web addresses, while individuals could use their names. A second proposal, to introduce domain names written in Asian, Arabic or other scripts, was also approved. "

Reaction to this is as ever on the Internet wonderfully polarised. The bloggerverse and the academics have mostly gone "whoopee!". If I want to bid to set up a .pangloss Tld and I can convince ICANN I can make money out of it by subletting the domain to my many fans :) , why not? The same attitude to internationalised domain names can be seen - not surprising as these do seem fantastically sensible given that , as Emily Taylor of Nominet puts it, ""At the moment, there are one-and-a-half billion people online and four-and-a-half billion people for whom the Roman script just means nothing."

However a rather different set of responses can be detected from lawyers responsible for policing company brands online. To them this just means that instead of buying up - say - nike.com, .co.uk, .biz etc etc - and buying it in English, Cyrillic and Mandarin kanji - they now have to think of buying up unlimited nos of possible permutations, with the possibility of more coming along everyday.

Pangloss thinks the corporate lawyers need to adapt to the new world and that ICANN have got it right. We don't live in the world anymore where the fact that someone has got nike.pangloss tarnishes the brand. We do live in a world where people invariably use Google to look up brands rather than merely typing in imagined URLs (and if a brand doesn't have its legit site at the top of the Google search list then it ought to be sacking some of its brand protection team.).
Furthermore mightn't it be easier once Nike has (as they will) set up their own Tld, for the few non-Google users to to guess us.nike rather than nike.com (or .us or .org or .biz??)

Yes cybersquatting, typosquatting etc still will matter in the "established" Tlds, notably .com and the relevant national country codes. But the whole point of massively expanding the "real estate" of the domain name space should be to create more opportunity for everyone - which in itself should diminish the need for "legitimate" domain name overlap, leaving the field free for the URDP to dispose of the unabashed non-legitimate cyber squatters.