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August 27, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

ICANN's New TLD Program - Will it Be A Successful Moon Launch or Another Train Wreck? 

I've just gotten back from a pleasant four-day trip to Ohio to visit my mother (who is still going strong at 92). When I returned to the office this morning the big news was ICANN's approval (as expected) of a new TLD program that is expected to bring hundreds of new domain extensions to the Internet. They will start taking applications from potential new TLD operators on January 12, 2012 with that opening application round to close April 12, 2012. However, they don't expect any of the new extensions to go live before November 2013 - almost two and a half years from now. 

Let me preface my thoughts on the new TLDs by noting that I will likely benefit from them in the form of new ad revenue from new TLD operators. There are also friends and companies that I respect that will  make money by providing services to new TLD operators - and I will be happy for them.

Having said that, my opinion, as I have said in the past, is that there is no need for countless new TLDs. ICANN has come up with a solution for a "problem" that doesn't exist. The previous new TLDs they introduced a decade ago are still struggling to gain recognition on Main Street and there is an

infinite number of name combinations available in those still under utilized extensions (as well as in the approximately 200 long established gTLD and ccTLD extensions). 

While ICANN has said the new TLDs will be "revenue neutral" - not a big money maker for them - I don't believe it for a moment. When someone says "it's not about the money," it is almost always about the money. It's not about doing something beneficial for Internet users, in fact it seems pretty obvious that for the web's business users it will generate a lot of unnecessary new expense as they are forced to make defensive domain registrations in extensions they have no interest in owning. 

I also regret seeing an effective TLD organizational system that had been well thought out by the domain name system's original creators so cavalierly discarded in favor of a massive jumble of extensions that most will never use or even be aware of. In one fell swoop ICANN has paved the way for an Internet junkyard rather than a well planned, useful advance in Internet addressing. 

I'm not sure why some think that an unlimited flood of new TLDs will have a greater positive impact than the measured number of new TLDs introduced in the past. While I personally like and own quite a few of those, their rate of adoption by the general public tends to make me believe the web needs a couple of thousand new extensions about as much as Imelda Marcos needs another 2,700 pairs of shoes. More is not always better - it is just more. The new TLDs will be subject to the same low visibility and usage hurdles that .info, .biz, .mobi and others still have not fully cleared, years after their debuts. That is not to say that some of those extensions have not been profitable for their operators - they have been - again I'm talking about public need, not new money making opportunities for ICANN, new registry operators or even DN Journal.

Still, unless the U.S. government intervenes, or the new TLD onslaught is halted by a lawsuit, my opinion (and yours) are moot points as of today. We can now only sit back and see how this all unfolds - see if it is a train wreck or the cyberspace equivalent of landing on the moon. Judging from past ICANN initiatives, lopsided give-away-the-store contract negotiations and other stumbles that have cost domain registrants dearly, I don't  think it will play out well (and the huge jackpot ICANN is hoping for may morph into cement overshoes instead) but your guess is as good as mine. If I could tell the future I would have been at the horse track today instead of sitting here writing this post!

(Posted June 20, 2011  

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