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How Safe Are Your .KIDS?

This year has been one of the busiest years for domain launches in quite a while. Before the end of 2022, we’ll see one more significant domain launch, namely .KIDS, on November 29, 2022. This extension is being launched as a safe space on the internet for children and parents. The registry has set out some very strict use policies to make this happen. Some companies have already registered their brands during the Sunrise Period, while others have taken up names in the Community Sunrise—including Liverpool Football Club (liverpoolfc.kids) Arizona State University Sun Devils (sundevils.kids), and companies in the healthcare industry, like Great Ormond Street Hospital (gosh.kids).

So, with the registry putting in place specific guiding principles for use, why should you consider registering this extension for your brand?

As with all domains, there’s a delicate balance to be struck for this generic top-level domain (gTLD); on the one hand, avoiding prohibitive registration requirements, and on the other, having effective protective measures to respond to abuse (meaning it could be the brand’s responsibility to check whether a third party has taken its brand names). Like others, this domain extension is offered first-come, first-served when General Availability launches later this month. Notably, it also has no restrictions about who can apply outside of the guiding principles. These factors generally create higher risks for recognized brands, where bad actors can easily imitate them or use the domains for fraud.

The percentage of children with access to the internet at home currently stands at 33% globally, although this number significantly changes when looking at high-income countries (89%) compared with low-income countries (6%). Additionally, more children, and at younger ages, were online when countries went into lockdown through the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that there are a lot of children using the internet, many with the means to make purchases. In researching for this blog, it was hard to find statistics showing how much children spend online. However, as a parent to three teenagers, I know it happens weekly! This poses a challenge for brand holders; should they register .KIDS domain names and make use of them as a safe place for children to interact with the brand, or should they simply register defensively to avoid misuse and potential exploitation of a vulnerable societal group?

Last year, there were a significant amount of AdultBlocks registered to disassociate brands against adult-themed domain extensions. The launch of .KIDS, if you don’t intend to use the domains, is simply the other side of the coin. Defensive registration of a domain extension that could cause significant reputation damage should be an easy decision.

The following questions may help brand owners decide the best course of action regarding .KIDS registrations for their brand:

  1. Is your brand’s target market children or parents, i.e., you could actively use this domain in the future?
  2. Which brand strings did you protect under AdultBlocks? You may wish to simply register these same brand strings defensively under .KIDS.
  3. Do you see cases of fraud using your brand? Consider registering defensively.
  4. Do you have a monitoring program where you can identify new registrations?

The last thing to contemplate, not just for this launch but for any other significant launches, is whether making a defensive registration is a more cost-effective way of managing your brand, especially as filing a dispute against brand infringing names could be 50+ times the amount it costs to register a domain.

Whatever you decide to do, whether using the extensions to positively engage with younger audiences, or to protect them and your brand from misuse by bad actors, children using the internet—both supervised and unsupervised—is a growing trend. Children using bank cards to buy things online has also increased. If fraudsters see an opportunity to target an audience that is not as internet savvy, you can be sure they’ll take advantage of it. Be sure you have a plan that works for your brand and target audiences ahead of the launch on November 29.

By Justin Hartland, Global Director of Account Management at CSC

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