Rules of engagement make this round of new TLDs less than satisfactory.
Last week ICANN released the names of the 1,400 some odd top level domains that might be headed to the web in the next year or two.
Despite every cliche ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom made about how the web will be changed forever, this is the biggest thing in the history of the internet, etc., I’m afraid to say it’s just not the case.
This isn’t to say that applicants didn’t come up with interesting strings. They did the best they could within a restrained system.
The real reason this isn’t revolutionary is because of the artificial restraints that were put in place.
Having 1,400 new TLDs on the web won’t change it that much. In the future, if we see tens of thousands — or hundreds of thousands — it might change. But for now it’s just more of the same; mostly just a five fold increase in the number of TLDs out there.
Here’s why this isn’t a revolution.
1. Too restrictive
The new TLD process was designed for an old way of thinking. A system where a registry controls a domain and parcels out second level domains in an attempt to make a profit. It wasn’t designed to make a second level flourish. It wasn’t designed for .brand domains, which will be hampered with unnecessary restrictions.
Should Canon attach a .canon domain to every camera it sells? It can, but if I were them I’d just give a canon.com subdomain and save myself 25 cents in fees per domain and threats of litigation, trademark abuse, etc.
There were also unnecessary restrictions on city, state, and region domain names. Whereas some enterprising residents of a city could have gone out and created a TLD for their city to be proud of, they were blocked by the mayor or the high cost.
There’s also the Governmental Advisory Committee and the public interest objector. The former will say the world is ending over .navy (and some countries, regrettably, over .gay). It will also take its sweet time coming to this determination. And the public interest objector has a $25 million budget he’s got to put to good use.
Imagine how slow to evolve the web would have been if anyone could object to your second level .com registration. That’s kind of what we have going on here.
2. Too defensive
Many of the applicants registered domains that are clearly for defensive purposes. Even if they use them, they’ll basically be akin to a single web site. Proof? Johnson & Johnson applied for .afamilycompany. ‘Nuff said.
I certainly hope a consultant didn’t tell the company that the domain would be at risk if they didn’t apply for it.
The downside to companies registering their brands with no intent to use them is we’ll have a lot of dead namespace. People complain about ‘squatters’ registering domains and parking them. Here we have entire TLD’s being “parked”!
3. Too closed
One of the saddest things about some of the big companies applying for TLDs (I’m looking mostly at you, Amazon.com), is that they don’t want to open up second level registrations to the public.
I’ve been told that new TLDs will usher in innovation. Maybe Amazon.com has some crazy cool trick up its sleeve on how it will create innovation with a closed TLD. But not allowing anyone other than Amazon to use the .kids namespace seems like a step in the wrong direction, not toward innovation.
4. The big, innovative players are missing.
We can look at big names that applied for domains and say “they get it”. But that’s really a game of the emperor has no clothes. Maybe it’s the majority of companies who didn’t apply for a new TLD that get it.
We don’t know for sure yet. But we do know there’s no .paypal, .twitter, or .facebook. These are the types of companies that can push mass adoption. They’ve opted out, at least this time around.
5. Simply not enough to make a difference
If the revolutionary aspect of new TLDs is to open up the namespace and offer an opportunity to innovate without the usual second level .com domain, 1,400 domains isn’t going to cut it. That’s just about 5 times how many domains are already in the root (including ccTLDs).
If you want to cut the shackles of .com, then registering a domain at the top level needs to be as simple as going to GoDaddy, typing in TLD, and registering it on the spot.
No need to explain to ICANN why you want to use the domain. No need to convince someone it’s for a community’s use. No need to worry about a government’s mores.
And most of all, no reason to shell out $185,000.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here. Maybe it’s not that easy, but certainly not as hard as it is to apply this time around.
(I’m not saying necessarily saying this would be a good thing, either.)
But if you want revolution, something to change up the existing namespace, then that is what it would look like.
Last week was not revolutionary. It was evolutionary. And in the grand scheme of the web, as our grandchildren look back on it many years from now, it was just a small blip on the radar.