Registrants of existing .com domain names are well positioned for coming release of IDN TLDs.
For years, domainers have been investing in Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) that use non-Latin characters. But these have all been IDN at the second level only, as there currently aren’t any top level domain names in non-Latin characters. So an internet user has to type the second level domain using one character set and then append “.com” to the end.
But that’s about to change, beginning with a select number of IDN country code domain names. Then, if everything goes as planned, entities will be able to apply for generic top level domain names in different scripts as part of the new gTLD process.
So what does this mean for people who bought idn.com domain names? They were banking on .com registry VeriSign getting the rights to “.com equivalents” in other scripts and languages and offering those to the existing registrants of IDN.com. As of right now, that looks like a good bet.
“Nothing is in concrete yet,” said Chuck Gomes, Vice President of Policy and Compliance for VeriSign Information Services. “But I think it’s a pretty well agreed-to plan.”
Essentially, if you have a second level .com domain name, then you’ll get the right to “activate” that second level domain in any of the .com-equivalent IDNs that VeriSign gets. The same goes for .net.
“We want the .com name to be a unique experience for .com regardless of what script you do it in,” said Gomes.
Gomes said it’s too early to tell how many IDN equivalents of .com and .net VeriSign might apply for. “We can’t predict what ICANN will do in terms of the application process,” Gomes explained. “I can say that the business unit is considering applying for ‘several’ IDN versions of .com in some of the scripts that are available.”
Owners of a .com that want to activate a .com-equivalent-IDN may need to pay a fee to do so. “The way I understand it right now, if you want to activate andrew.chinese-version-of-.com, there will be a fee, although that hasn’t been determined,” said Gomes.
However, domain registrants won’t be required to activate IDN TLDs just to keep them out of the hands of other people. The .com equivalent IDNs will always be reserved for whomever has the second level domain. This also means that, once IDN TLDs are released, if someone registers keyword.com-equivalent-IDN, no one else can register keyword.com.
The management of these activated IDN domain names will take place at the registrar. It likely won’t be possible to transfer ownership of one .com-equivalent IDN to another person while a registrant still has another .com-equivalent-IDN or .com of the same second level domain.
VeriSign’s current plan is that an activated IDN will work much like any other domain name, giving registrants full control such as nameservers. “If you want to create a web site around that [Chinese IDN TLD] you can, or you can point the Chinese version to your existing web site,” explained Gomes.
The idea of IDN equivalents of existing top level domain names could create some interesting situations, however. Although they have the presumptive right of renewal, registries such as VeriSign and Public Interest Registry merely have a contract to manage domain names such as .com and .org. If these registries get the IDN equivalents of these top level domain names and then lose the main contract, that would result in two different registries controlling what are essentially equivalent TLDs.
“How would that all happen, I don’t know that I know the answer to that, or if that would ever happen,” Gomes said, referring to the potential conflict. “It creates some complications that I don’t think anybody would want.”