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Winners and losers from the gTLD decision

Icann’s landmark decision to open up the gTLD space has won almost equal amounts of applause and criticism. Managing IP predicts who will win and lose from the process


Peter Dengate Thrush and the Icann Board: Icann Chair Dengate Thrush had staked his reputation on getting approval for the gTLD launch, and this was his last chance as he retires from the Board at the end of this week. Despite much scepticism that the decision would be made, and in the face of considerable opposition, the Board voted in favour by 13 votes to 1, with 2 abstentions. Now it just has to make the launch work. And watch the money roll in.

gTLD applicants: More than 80 organisations are already well on the way to launching gTLDs, many have been ready for several years and some are already accepting pre-registrations. They include bidders for domains involving places, communities, generic words and brands such as Canon and Hitachi. Yesterday's decision was long overdue, in their view.

Dispute providers: However smoothly the rollout goes, there will be fights - over entitlement to gTLDs, trade mark protection, conflicting rights and probably even ethical issues. The four existing UDRP providers are likely to be called on to resolve many of these, either in the UDRP or the new mechanisms being set up.

Advisers: The gTLD rollout will be great business for lawyers and consultants, particularly those who know the Applicant Guidebook inside out. Applicants for gTLDs will not want to make mistakes, and will cumulatively pay millions of dollars in fees for good advice.


The GAC: Government representatives came late to the gTLD debate, but once involved they won some key concessions, including increased protection for IP rights. But in the final showdown on Sunday they failed to convince the Board to enhance protection for trade marks by removing the use requirement.

VeriSign: The world's largest domain name registry is responsible for some 100 million .com and .net domains. But with the gTLD space opening up, the privileged status of .com and .net could disappear. On the other hand, VeriSign could turn itself into a winner if it can sign up plenty of new new gTLDs applicants and run their registries for them.

Domainers: People who profit from speculating on domains should be losers, if all goes to plan. The new measures in place to prevent cybersquatting (such as the Trade Mark Clearing House) should make it harder for them to exploit others' brands while, more generally, a greater number of TLDs should make cybersquatting and pay-per-click advertising less lucrative.

Too early to tell

Brand owners: Many brand owners have opposed the gTLD expansion in principle, while even cautious supporters are worried about the expense and hassle of protecting their trade marks in the new domains. They are likely to view the new gTLDs as a green light for cybersquatters. But creative companies also see the process as giving them an opportunity to develop new identities and even business models online: if they are right, the web could be a very different place in 10 years' time.

Registrars: Those registrars whose business relies on bulk-selling defensive domain names to corporate clients may find there is less demand for their services as companies focus their attention on their own gTLDs and using the preventative measures available. But there are also opportunities for registrars to advise on and manage the launch of new gTLDs, and some are already switching their businesses to doing this.

Internet users: Icann argues that more gTLDs will give consumers more choice, and greater confidence that they have found the website they wanted. Alternatively, will thousands of TLDs simply lead to confusion? Or, perhaps, the growth of social media, smartphones and apps will mean we all end up relying rather less on domain names than we do at the moment?

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