Net Culture

In which ICANN consider new TLDs…

So ICANN are considering new top-level domains for the web – to which we can only breathe a sigh of relief and pray to god that the new ones will be both functional and worthy of getting excited over. People are straying too far into country domains to find the URL of their dreams because the current hierarchy is collapsing under the weight of demand.

The most worrying aspect of the new domains is intellectual property rights and “passing off”. If you have a name trademarked over several countries (and you don’t even have to be a particularly large company to do this), you can legitimately sue someone who is using your trademark in their domain name as long as they are encroaching on your subject of business. For a company like Yahoo! of course, there is very little that ISN’T their business already. Hence lots of people could be sued.

This is all sounds fine and dandy, but often it isn’t. Just because someone else doesn’t have the right to do what you are doing with the name doesn’t mean 1) that they can’t buy the domain name anyway or 2) that they won’t buy it and then decide to break the law (on the assumption that you just won’t take them to court). Which means that an increase in available domain names may very just mean an increase in the outlay of medium and large sized companies who wish to protect their brand.

,p>Clearly, the most sensible step is to clearly use the TLD to define strict areas of interest – strict in that they are clear and easily definable (like .arts or .xxx) rather than that they are enforced strictly. Enforcement should be irrelevant if the names are clear enough. The alternative – a proliferation of vague domain names such as .web (for which the apparent TLD analogue .net already exists) and .firm (TLD simply means that Yahoo! have to buy them. Large blocks of domain names will then disappear from public consumption. It is unlikely, for example, that Yahoo! could or would want to make a case for preserving its copyright on

Of course the corollary of this is that a decent block of these domains have to be produced at the same time. If this is an incremental process, then new domains will be bought incrementally by the companies concerned which is to be avoided. Some of the proposed TLDs are: .arts .kids .xxx and I think perhaps that additional ones might cover the types of website presented as well as the subject matter at hand – perhaps some form of searchengine or directory TLD might be a useful one, or .zine or even .log (.blog?)