Overstock.com: We’d still really like O.com
Friday, May 11th, 2012
Overstock.com pleads for single letter .com domains in VeriSign contract renewal.
For many years Overstock.com has had an obsession. An obsession with getting the domain name O.com.
As you may know, there are only three one letter .com domains ever registered: q.com, x.com, and z.com. These were registered (and grandfathered) prior to a restriction on one character .com domains being put in place.
Since then, Overstock.com has done everything possible to angle itself for getting o.com whenever it becomes available.
Its latest action is to urge ICANN to make one letter .com domains part of VeriSign’s renewal of the .com contract with ICANN.
One thing’s a good bet: if ICANN ever allows single letter .com domains then Overstock.com will pay whatever it takes and sue whomever it has to in order to get the o.com domain name.
Back in 2005, Overstock.com started beating the drum to release single letter .coms. Here’s how domain attorney John Berryhill tells it in a 2008 article:
The subject of allocating single character domain names has captured the attention of the ICANN community to varying degrees from time to time, primarily depending on the interested efforts of Overstock.com and its advocates. For example, just prior to the December 2005 ICANN meeting in Vancouver, a press release was circulated, and its authors managed to pimp their claim that ICANN was weighing the release of single character domain names to a variety of media outlets (e.g. ICANN weighs single-letter Web addresses USA Today, November 28, 2005). During the 2005 Vancouver meeting, one of the more interesting exhibit tables was run by Overstock.com, for the purpose of distributing baseball caps embroidered with the letter “O”, apparently for the purpose of impressing on the minds of the ICANN community that Overstock.com claims a pre-eminent interest in the letter “O” – and apparently oblivious to the fact that Oakley has longstanding rights in the mark “O” for sportswear. Hence, while rumors spread that Oprah was coming to visit ICANN, the presence of blatant trademark infringement at an ICANN meeting by a member of the Business Constituency was, at least, entertaining.
Overstock.com has always argued that single letter domains should respect “prior use”. Of course, a domain like o.com can’t have any prior use. But that hasn’t stopped the company; it has registered trademarks for o.com. In fact, someone has at least attempted to trademark every single letter .com that could exist. (This is similar to all the companies trying to trademark non-existent top level domains.)
Overstock.com’s obsession with o.com is widely seen as its reason for pursuing other single letter domain names such as o.biz and o.info. It helps the company establish more rights to o.com (at least that will be its argument). It even went so far as to rebrand to o.co, only to pull back.
VeriSign floated an idea of offering single letter .net domain names back in 2010, but later withdrew its request.
One of the tricky parts for VeriSign is the windfall offering single letter .com domains would create. Who should get this money? A lot of people in the internet community would argue it’s certainly not VeriSign that should pocket the money.
VeriSign likely doesn’t want to bring up the single letter issue as it renews the contract. It doesn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart. The .com monopoly is good enough for it.
So while others debate whether new IP protections should be included in the .com contract or challenge VeriSign’s .com price hikes, Overstock.com continues to focus on a mission. A mission it’s been working on for at least 7 years.