New Domains Allowed: .coke, .nyc, .law to Impact SEO, Security and Branding

Anyone who knows me knows I have two all-time favorite authors: Christopher Buckley (Thank You For Smoking, Boomsday, Little Green Men, Supreme Courtship, etc.) and Max Barry (Company, Jennifer Government, Syrup). Barry’s first novel, Syrup, is currently being made into a movie in NYC and he’s been writing very entertaining blog posts about his new adventures in filmmaking. Syrup, incidentally, takes place in the midst of the Coca-Cola Company’s marketing machine and it is undeniably one of the funniest books ever in the history of the world … or you know, at least tied with everything Buckley’s ever written. (I’m nothing if not loyal.)

Well, today, I saw a BBC article that immediately reminded me of another of Barry’s books, Jennifer Government. In the book, people no longer have their own surnames. Instead, they are identified by their employer: John McDonald’s, Mike IBM, Jennifer Government.

Today, it’s been reported that the .com, .net, .org format is about to be opened up to more generic top-level domains ranging from .law, .nyc or, you guessed it .coke. It seems the Global Internet Regulators and ICANN met in Singapore this morning to finalize the rules of this expansion.

“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

For many years, ICANN has been lobbying for brand named suffixes and now they may finally get their wish. Early this morning a plan was approved that will open the floodgates in January for hundreds of applications for new highly-coveted domains. Corporations and cities will be the first accepted.

It will cost $185,000USD to apply for the suffixes, and companies would need to show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. The money will be used to cover costs incurred by ICANN in developing the new gTLDs (generic top-level-domains) and employing experts to scrutinize the many thousands of expected applications. A portion will be set-aside to deal with potential legal actions, raised by parties who fail to get the domains they want. Applications will start on 12 January.

Most organizations have been quiet about their petitions, but a few .nyc.parisUnicefHitachi and Canon have been petitioning for a branded domain for years.

Obviously, this new domain format will be a great coup for the companies and cities that obtain them. And, as a known brand name, I can see their right to it.

But, will this be the beginning of even more generic domains? And, if so, who gets .socialmedia or .marketing? What about .news? Or, .music or .movies? They mentioned .law in the BBC article as an example. Well, I can think of oh, a few million people who could make a legit claim to the domain. Who will get it and why?

What about brand names that are the same? Remember the big dispute between Apple, the computer company, and Apple, the record label over the .com domain? Surely, that’s gonna happen all over again. CNN raised the issue of cybersquatting, but if you have to fork over at least $180,000 for the initial buy and get approval from the ICANN committee, I think the process will be a bit more difficult than a few clicks on godaddy.

One of ICANN’s rules is that no domains that are “confusingly similar” will be allowed and that could actually complicate similar or same brand arguments even more.

In the meantime, here’s hoping the branded domain names limit themselves to the web. Although, in my case, Jennifer Anderson Jones PR doesn’t sound too bad. Although it would make a helluva monogram.

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