Are you ready for new gTLDs?
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Are you ready for new gTLDs?

As Icann prepares to open the new gTLD application stage tomorrow, lawyers say that businesses are still unaware about .brands and there may be a last-minute rush of applications that delays the programme

Icann approved $900,000 for its global communications campaign in October, increasing the budget from $805,000, and appointed PR firm Burson-Marsteller to promote the programme across the world.

Although there has been an increase in media coverage in the last two weeks, US politician Lawrence Strickling from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration told Icann this month that it needed to “better educate” stakeholders about gTLDs.

Leighton Cassidy at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse in London said many organisations were unprepared for the forthcoming changes to gTLDs. He said he was concerned that many organisations have failed to grasp the impact on their brands.

“Icann has been criticised for not doing enough to publicise the introduction of new gTLDs. Potentially this could mean a rush of last minute applications once companies realise the marketing potential of an application,” he said.

"There is a very real possibility a last minute surge in applications will cause the programme to be overwhelmed and therefore delayed by the administrative burden of processing,” he added.

John Wilks at DLA Piper in London said there was a surprising lack of knowledge among his clients and said this suggested that Icann’s budget has not been put to its best use.

Michele Neylon of registrar Blacknight went further, saying the communications campaign had been “terrible” and believed Icann had wasted its resources.

“The budget has been used to pay for Rod Beckstrom and his entourage to go around the globe first class. Icann will be shipping him to London next month when Icann has staff in Europe,” he said.

Beckstrom said recently that he had visited 16 countries in three months to raise awareness about gTLDs. He said that since September, Icann board members and staff had spoken at more than 50 events in 38 countries. “We see awareness rising around the world,” he said in a blog post.

But Neylon said Icann should have worked with registries, registrars and the At-Large Advisory Committee, who have good experience and contacts to share information about new gTLDs. He said Icann should have targeted niche publications as well as the mainstream media to promote .brands.

Despite the criticism, Ben Crawford from CentralNic registry said Icann’s gTLD website was impressive and he has noticed a surge of articles about the programme – including coverage on CNN, CNBC and in The Guardian newspaper.

“It’s difficult for people with no exposure to understand some of the issues,” he said.

Despite many brand owners keeping their plans close to their chests, registrar Melbourne IT has said it has prepared more than 100 gTLD applications for clients, many of whom are brand owners.

Chief executive Theo Hnarakis said reputable companies from the finance, retail and consumer goods industries have shown the most interest.

The application period opens tomorrow before closing on April 12.

How many gTLD applications do you think there will be? Vote in our poll on managingip.com.

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