The structure of domain names and ICANN rules hamper .brand domains.
Earlier this week ICANN posted a notice from Honeywell that it wants to terminate its .honeywell domain name. These domains–with a trademark after the dot–are commonly referred to as .brand top level domain names.
They were shoehorned into the existing framework for top level domains, making them hard to use in innovative ways. A couple of the comments on my post about Honeywell’s withdrawal point these out.
One commenter, who goes by the name Snoopy, questioned what should go left of the dot in a .brand domain for the company’s main website. He said www.brand is a possibility.
John Berryhill responded and pointed out some of the challenges of .brand domains:
Right, but they’d all have to adopt the same protocol in order to have a hope of “guessability”. But you are spot on with the words being in the wrong order, as I have also heard from the brand manager for a major automobile manufacturer. Many more .brand TLDs are going to be dropped since they were obtained on the basis of there being a limited time window to apply for them, so quite a few of the applications were simply exercises in avoiding a lost opportunity to obtain something they could figure out later if they wanted to use. (and, yes, urged on by the ICANN consultant corps)
In order to advertise the “home” destination in a .brand TLD, the brand owner, with potentially billions of value in the goodwill associated with their brand, has to pick some other word and give it ‘top billing’ on their marquee, ahead of their brand. I’s particularly tough if you are, say, Yamaha, and make everything from concert pianos to motorcycles. It would be one thing if DNS wild-carding were allowed, but it’s not since ICANN’s revenue model is based on registration volume of 2LDs. That also rules out any “TLD as database” applications, such as being able to use (product-serial-number).brand in service, support or warranty applications.
Having control of one’s own DNS data to the top-level may be of some marginal utility, but there is precious little practical value .brand TLDs. Now, of course, someone with something to sell may pop up here and argue otherwise, but one can’t deny the fact that you have better odds of seeing a snow leopard than a .brand TLD with any substantial use. It is going to become more difficult to foist these on brand owners against the growing wasteland of discarded .brand TLDs, so I can certainly understand the urgency.
One of the better pitches for these things was by Joe Alagna, then of Centralnic, who would explain that early email addresses, such as through Compuserve, would look like “(numeric)@compuserve.net”, which made no brand impression. Later, one could get “(brand)@earthlink.net” which included the brand, but still advertised Earthlink. Then, it became easier to get addresses like email@example.com, which eliminated the ad for the provider, but still implicitly ‘advertises’ Verisign as the .com registry. Joe could get you to buy sand in the desert if you listen long enough.
The thing is, generic TLDs like .com are just that – generic. Nobody associates any particular brand with .com or other gTLDs (unless they are in the domain business), so they are blank canvases which do not detract from the commercial impression of a URL or email address.
This will be a challenge unless or until ICANN changes how these domains can be used. Even then, it will be an uphill battle.
For the pro-.brand view, listen to this podcast.