Internet gTLDs: gentleman place your bets!




After years of hard work and negotiations and not a few problems and tensions, on June 20 the Board of ICANN approved the opening of the award process for 500 new Internet generic domain names (gTLDs). It all started in October 2007 when the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) – one of the groups that coordinates global Internet policy at ICANN – approved its recommendations to the ICANN Board on new gTLDs. These recommendations, prepared with the help of all ICANN Constituencies, where adopted by the Board in June 2008. Since then and until last June, three years of discussions come to an end with the publication of the Applicant Guidebook, the “instructions” to be followed by any interested party to apply for a new gTLD. A number of controversies and discussions took place during these last months and even days, with the intervention of the US Administration (Department of Commerce and Senate Committee on Commerce) and the European Commission, all of them pledging for some additional protections and measures to be implemented as regards the launch of new TLDs and calling for ICANN to launch its programme in a limited, cautious manner with a small number of new TLDs, if indeed a delay was not possible.


But the fact is that on last 12th of January the new ICANN gTLD programme was launched as it was announced in June. Now interested parties have until 12th of April to apply for a new gTLD following the procedure detailed in the Applicant Guidebook. ICANN has opened the door to new 500 domain names with a clear winner: ICANN itself which will increase its income. It remains unclear who else will benefit from this process. Businesses will have to increase its expenses to, at least, follow up the new gTLDs and most probably to defend their brands in the Internet adding new tensions to their budgets in moments of economic downturn. Users will find a new Internet more complex and confusing and open to higher potential threats.


On the other side, one has to recognise that ICANN has taken a courageous decision against the opinion of many big contenders, taking a risk that only the future will demonstrate whether it deserved the effort. The new business models that will support the success of the new gTLDs are unclear, but what is clear in the Internet business? Who can predict what new developments, applications and services will be built around these new gTLDs?


As Julius Caesar said when crossing the Rubicon: ALEA IACTA EST! Gentlemen, place your bets!