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Is the Future of .BRAND TLDs to Be Registered Just Like a Domain Name?

Will .BRAND Top-Level Domains be made available for registration at Registrars like GoDaddy, just like second level domains are? My guess is that it will and here are the reasons why.

Go what?

There is no longer a need to introduce GoDaddy. GoDaddy is just the largest Registrar in the world and has no equivalent. According to nTLDStats.com, it has 24.51% market shares in the new domain names market, with 175,313 new domain names registered out of a total of 715,276, 12 million customers and 57 million domain names under management. The number two has not even half GoDaddy’s new domain names market share. In a few clicks, you can register your domain name: it is that simple.

Why not make it simple too for .BRAND applicants then?

Applying for a new domain name extension, for a new gTLD, is not so simple because you are required to submit a complete application to ICANN and this does not happen that often, it’s happened once only and was called “the First Round” (of the ICANN new gTLD program). A new gTLD application has a technical part, a legal part, a financial part and many other questions an applicant must be able to answer but on the first Round of the ICANN new gTLD program, service providers filled in these questions for their clients. Also to be pointed out, an applicant must guarantee the extension will last, either by having money available on an escrow account or a Letter Of Credit from his bank (LOC). He must pay fees and provide info to ICANN regularly… well: it is not as simple as registering a domain name and renewing it once a year. Don’t forget an objection can be presented…

Lesson learnt from Round 1 of the ICANN new gTLD program

When ICANN created the Applicant Guidebook, it did not really imagine so many brands would participate: this “methodology” was made for domain name extensions such as the one we already knew like .NET , .BIZ and .MUSEUM. In simple words, ICANN offered to open access to these massive projects to Entrepreneurs with a formal methodology: the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook.

A few brands have launched already and it seems to work, AXA is a good example of this but to apply, all brands had to comply with very strange rules. For example, a brand had to accept any Registrar that wanted to accredit itself to its .brand domain names. Hard to believe the ICANN had forgotten to offer a specific methodology for brands…but at this time, there were so many problems and delays that, at some point…the ICANN new gTLD program had to launch.

Today the program has launched and ICANN has worked hard to provide the appropriate answers for “the Second Round” of applications; and the last update is available here. It is an amendment to the Registry agreement: “If, as a result of GNSO Council advice or otherwise, Specification 13 is further modified, an applicant for a TLD that has been determined by ICANN to qualify as a .Brand TLD will be offered the opportunity to execute an amendment incorporating such modified Specification 13 as part of the Registry Agreement”.

How to industrialize such a process for .BRAND applicants?

Just as we have seen it in the First Round, many new gTLD applications looked alike: some were copy-paste applications. And since the use of a .BRAND domain name extension is now much more defined, suggesting a template should not be so difficult. Also question 18 of the form should become an easy one to answer: “Describe the mission/purpose of your proposed gTLD”.

Here is what the new methodology for .BRAND requires and what solution could be implemented for an online registration process after signing a contract with the Registrar:

  • “The TLD string is identical to the textual elements protectable under applicable law, of a registered trademark valid under applicable law”: upload your trademark documentary evidence;
  • “Only Registry Operator, its Affiliates or Trademark Licensees are registrants of domain names in the TLD and control the DNS records associated with domain names at any level in the TLD”: I agree, click here;
  • “The TLD is not a Generic String TLD (as defined in Specification 11)”: I agree, click here;
  • “Registry Operator has provided ICANN with an accurate and complete copy of such trademark registration”: upload your trademark documentary evidence (v2).

The price of a Premium domain name?

In Round One, it used to cost $185 000 to submit an application and it is possible this does not change in the Second Round. But is the price the problem if ICANN is the only one to decide about it? Let’s face: it is a “take it or leave it” sort of decision. Some domain names are sold millions of dollars and the payment process is often made using escrow. If such payments are made online, paying for the ICANN fee can be done then, after paying the Registrar for preparing the application.

Godaddy is an applicant, it submitted three applications and withdrew two. It is familiar with this process and has the technical capacity to host new gTLD applications. Technical questions are answered here.

To the question: does it have the capacity to be the Registrar of its .brand customers? I will let you answer that one.

What about the legal and financial aspect of the application? The legal part is written applications already submitted: these are available to those who want and need to read them, it is a matter of going here and pick one up, then adapt it. Godaddy applied for its own .BRAND, it is the .GODADDY new gTLD: Senior Director, ICANN Policy at GoDaddy is pretty much familiar with the ICANN new gTLD application process. I am confident GoDaddy has the capacity to solve the legal question and come with a template.

I believe the issue comes from the financial aspect of the application: when it comes to providing the guarantee about your own financial resources, it means meeting face to face with your client. I was in that situation and I must admit it took me long to understand how to proceed and let’s face it, I passed. The question about “projections” was a very good one too. The financial question of the new gTLD application is to me the hardest to answer.

Too difficult to industrialize?

A .BRAND is a client who wants to be able to register domain names just like he usually does with .COM and .FR domains we already know. The person in charge needs an interface to enter the domain and hit “register”... and that’is it.

Is such a process too difficult to industrialize? Not really. To me it looks like it is a matter money for the client and a matter of organization for the Registrar. But what about objections, string contentions and possible withdrawal during the ICANN procedure? What about a possible auction in the end? What about if ICANN decides to change the rules like it did in Round One?

These are questions to be answered in the contract that a .BRAND client signs with the Registrar in charge of the application. These “bad surprises” are options made available in the interface of the client during the procedure: the client is informed by email and has access to a dedicated support . As long as a client is informed about the possible turns his application can take during the procedure…managing the submission of a .BRAND new gTLD application is possible online: it is project management.

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".

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