.bob for sale to a good home

Newsflash! Changes ahead in the types of internet addresses consumers use.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted this week on the final set of rules that will enable changes to the assignment of top level names on the internet. Think of it this way.  There are 22 existing top level domains. Things like .com, .net, .org, .edu, etc.  Now, the dictionary could also become a source of domain names. So we might start seeing internet addresses like .nyc, .city, .coke, .hotel, .facebook.

Say what? So we could see internet sites with addresses like iwanta.sony, my.honda, or unitedstates.president. That applause you hear is from marketers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and lawyers. A new frontier is opening on the internet again. It’s like the wild west. Prospectors are forming their teams and the gold rush is set to happen.

Holy cost of entry batman!
But wait. Not so fast. ICANN is putting rules, regulations, and a hefty price tag on the new domain registration process to keep away most cybersquatters and individuals look for a personal address. To start with the price of the new extensions is set at $185,000 with a $25,000 annual maintenance fee. The application includes about 150 pages of policy documents.

Applications must show a legitimate claim to the name they are requesting. It’s reported that ICANN is hiring consultants to thoroughly manage the application and approval process.

Alas! My dreams of owning .bob just disappeared. That’s too bad. I was warming-up to the idea of uncle.bob, whatabout.bob, or thetrue.bob.

But wait. There’s more. What if multiple entities apply for the same domain name? Generic names like .law, .city, .baseball, or .bank?  ICANN says that if multiple applicants pass the entrance criteria requesting the same domain name then the name goes to auction.

No matter how you stack it, this game is for big boys with deep pockets. Sheesh.

So what’s this all really mean?
Well, in the early days of the internet, profiteers claimed brand names by the hundreds and thousands due to the low cost of entry. It’s like owning a piece of real-estate. You can park a site there that serves ads (making money) and then look/wait for a suitable buyer. I think the possibility for that same type of abuse exists, but with more sophistication and backing.

For example, what about all the registrars that sell internet addresses today? Some of these are for-profit organizations, unlike ICANN. Will they be allowed to snatch-up generic domains and then change the rules of the game for a resell? Once a domain is sold under the tighter ICANN rules will future resells happen without restrictions?

It certainly means a new wave of creativity for marketers to make easy addresses for consumers to remember.
Another possibility is the creation of domains that become defacto standard for a specific type of business. The owner could sell membership to the domain as a way to control access. This country club type approach could lock out phising sites.  Think .creditcard, .billpay, etc.

That’s all great. But will consumers use it?
Any change takes time, and certainly we are programmed today to recognize .com and .org addresses. Some tech pundits have said the domain name has a shrinking value because consumers are relying more on search than typing in addresses. In fact, all the major browsers on the market today already combine search functionality into the address bar.

One thing I like about the existing shared top level domains is they are recognizable by the domain as an internet address. This is why you marketers have dropped the ‘www’ designator in most advertisements today.  I’m not sure that holds true if the domain extension can be almost any word.  For example if there’s an advertisement for me to visit ipod.apple, would I recognize this as an internet address?

At the end of the day, marketers will have to solve for ease of use and value to the consumer. As with most technology changes, this doesn’t change the core components of transactions between two entities. At the end of the day there’s an exchange of information, goods, or services based on a need (real or perceived).