No exclusivity for .APP, .BOOK or .BLOG… It was a close call!

We’re safe now: highly desirable domain names such as .APP or .BOOK will not be seized by a few wealthy players who would have kept the gTLDs for themselves. Here’s a quick explanation...

Last week, ICANN very proudly announced that a new era had begun for the Internet: the first four new generic Top-Level Domains have been delegated. This means that trademark owners will now be the first to get the opportunity to register their trademark during the so-called “Sunrise” period; after which registration will be open to everyone, during the so-called “General Availability” period. The fact that this concerns IDN gTLDs (domain extensions with non-Latin characters) has a symbolic meaning for the new Internet, which intends to distance itself from the old Western dominance.

Still, it was quite a close call: all the good intentions that ICANN had with the new gTLDs could have become much work for nothing. In fact, with the new domain extensions, ICANN wanted to help companies establish a clearer identity on the Web, but they also wanted to open the domain market, so that every company, organisation or individual would be able to register a suitable domain name at an affordable price. And that endeavour was very close to becoming a fiasco, or even worse: the final result could have been an Internet more than ever in the hands of the lucky few on this planet.

Some major players, including Amazon and Google, had submitted several applications for generic strings like .BOOK, .APP, .CLOUD, .MUSIC, etc., and wanted to be the only ones to be allowed to access these domains. In the technical jargon, you would use the term “exclusive access registries”, i.e. a Registry where the access is restricted to only one person or entity and/or the partners of this person or entity. In other words: if Amazon or Google were to manage this new gTLD, an independent software developer would never get the opportunity to request a domain in the .APP gTLD, just as a publisher would never be able to have a domain in the .BOOK gTLD.

Obviously, different parties are interested in these highly desirable new gTLDs. For .APP, for instance, applications have been submitted by 13 different parties. But when you know that in such cases an auction is going to take place to determine who the final operator of the gTLD is going to be, you also instantly realise it is the one with the biggest wallet that will win the auction. So, there was a real danger: there could have been new imbalances in the domain market.

Fortunately, ICANN managed to clear the danger of exclusivity. During a meeting in Beijing, they decided that an exclusive access would be allowed only if there was some kind of public utility in it – and that was definitely not the case for 186 applications for new gTLDs. So, ICANN required applicants to provide further explanation in order to understand if they planned to provide public or exclusive access for the new gTLD. And the companies that wanted to provide exclusive access only would not be able to sign a Registry Agreement for the management of the gTLD.

Several companies have decided to be more moderate. 35 applicants replied that their original application did in fact mention exclusive access, but that they actually did not intend to apply this rule. 138 applicants confirmed that they would not apply exclusive access rights and that their application now reflects this intention. 3 applicants did not reply at all, and 10 applicants said they wanted to keep restricted access rights.

Concretely, this means that Amazon will eventually not get exclusive rights for APP, BOOK, CLOUD, GAME, MAIL, MAP, MOBILE, MOVIE, MUSIC, NEWS, SEARCH, SHOP, SONG, STORE, TUNES and VIDEO. And the same goes for Google, who will not restrict the access to MOVIE, MUSIC, MAIL, MAP, STOR, SHOP, BABY, SHOW, BOOK, GAME, CPA, APP, CLOUD and SEARCH. made HOTELS open to the public, Johnson & Johnson gave up BABY, L'Oréal made MAKEUP, SALON, BEAUTY, SKIN and HAIR open to the public… As you can see from this list, the decision made by ICANN has been of inestimable value for an open domain market, and for an open Internet.

For some new gTLDs, however, applicants stand their ground and keep asking for exclusivity. KBE gTLD Holding Inc. wants both THEATER and THEATRE exclusively for itself, IG Group Holdings PLC wants to have exclusive rights on BROKER, Viking River Cruises Bermuda Ltd on CRUISE, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on GROCERY. On the other hand, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company keeps a door open as a precaution: they want to have exclusive rights on TIRES, but say their answer can still be changed. The same goes for Hughes Satellite Systems Corp. for DVR, and for Dish DBS Corp. for MOBILE, DATA and PHONE. In the next weeks, we will let you know how ICANN reacted to these applications.

Now that this issue has been resolved, nothing can stop a rush on the new domain names anymore. Be quick and pre-register your domain name now in one of the new gTLDs! And do not forget that .GENT is coming soon ...