Several new Internet suffixes will help categorize URLs.
Just when you thought you had this whole domain-name thing all locked down, along comes the Internet Corporation for Assignment Names and Numbers (ICANN) changing things up. With the number of “.com” URL registrations now somewhere around twenty-million, it’s becoming clear that more “room” on the Internet needs to be created. In order to accommodate the need for more Internet cyber real estate, ICANN ended five years of discussions last November when it approved seven new top-level domains (TLDs).
Of the seven, the one most likely to cause a stir is “.biz.” The dotbiz suffix will be available for unrestricted commercial sites and should see the most URL registrations due to its greater commercial application. The other six new TLDs may or may not be used for commercial sites:
.pro – Professionals like doctors and lawyers.
.name – Individual people.
.museum – Museums.
.aero – Airline industry.
.coop – Cooperatives.
.info – Information sites.
Three of the new TLDs–dotinfo, dotname, and dotbiz–are unrestricted. This would seem to invite the cyber-squatting problem that a few years ago had people registering companies’ names as a URLs, then offering to sell the URLs to the companies for exorbitant sums. But ICANN is entertaining proposals designed to limit the potential for cyber-squatting. One is to charge 1,000 dollars to register dotbiz URLs, thereby limiting speculators. Another is to give trademark owners an opportunity to preregister their trademark for the dotbiz and dotinfo suffixes. This second proposal would emphasize the importance of receiving U.S. federal registration for your trademarks. The four new restricted TLDs–dotcoop, dotmuseum, dotpro, and dotaero–probably will not cause too much controversy because they’ll be assigned only to qualifying entities.
In cases where more than one party owns a particular trademark (Southwest Airlines and Southwest Internet Services, for example), the more desirable URL will most likely be assigned to the company that applies for it first. Southwest.com, the airline’s Web site, is more intuitive than southwest.net, the Internet-services company’s site. Registration for the new TLDs is slated to begin sometime in Spring 2001, and trademark owners may have an opportunity to preregister.
The introduction of new TLDs has always been controversial. Those who already own desirable URLs resist adding any more TLDs, fearing that the value of their existing domain name will be diluted. In contrast, parties new to the Internet are finding it difficult to acquire a satisfactory domain name and are therefore lobbying hard to eliminate what they see as restricted access to an unrestrictive medium.
Companies whose names are currently registered by other parties now have an opportunity to secure a URL that is shorter or more intuitive than their current one. Hurley International, therefore, might register hurley.biz to supplement or replace its current URL, hurley999.com, as the company is the only registered owner of the trademark “Hurley” in the U.S. and would qualify to preregister for the new TLDs before the individual who owns the hurley.com URL would.
To protect their Web prominence, companies that already own URLs that match their trademarks may want to register the same names under one or more of the new TLDs. World Industries, for example, may want to register worldindustries.biz to supplement its worldindustries.com URL. As Internet users become more familiar with the new TLDs, it may become important to keep your URL updated.
If a Web presence is important for your company, stay abreast of new developments in the ever-changing Internet landscape. Registration dates for the new TLDs will be posted on the ICANN Web site at icann.org. Be sure to take advantage of anny opportunities to preregister, as there will certainly be a new breed of cyber-squatters looking to cause you havoc by snatching up your URLs.
Matthew Miller is an attorney-at-law in Solana Beach, California. He can be reached at: (858) 259-6969.