New gTLD guide #1: dot-shabaka
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New gTLD guide #1: dot-shabaka

As new gTLDs roll out over the next few months, Managing IP will be profiling those of particular interest to brand owners. We start with .Shabaka, the first new gTLD to launch

What is the domain and what’s unique about it?

Dot-Shabaka شبكة is a domain for Arabic speakers. The four-character domain string can be translated as “web” or “internet”. The domain supports Arabic script and numerals.

“It’s about building an Arabic internet, becoming the new .com in Arabic,” says Yasmin Omer, general manager of the domain. “It’s a market that hasn’t been tapped into. The internet speaks in English, and so far Arabic speakers have not had their own internet presence. There is content out there but navigating to it is difficult.”

shabaka20logo.png

There are 850 million Arabic speakers in the world, and Arabic is said to be the fastest-growing segment of the internet.

Dot-Shabaka was one of the first four new gTLDs added to the root server as part of the new gTLD programme, and the first to launch a sunrise period.

Who is the operator?

The registry operator is dotShabaka Registry and the technology partner is ARI Registry Services. ARI is involved in more than 100 gTLD applications, including for brand owners such as IBM and Sony and for numerous IDN domains, such as.abudhabi in Arabic.

Dot-Shabaka is one of seven domains that ARI itself has invested in.

When does it launch?

The obligatory sunrise period for trade mark owners started on October 31 and runs until December 29. The landrush period will run from January 2 to January 31.

General availability opens on February 4. The trade marks claims period concludes on April 4.

To take advantage of the sunrise or claims period, trade mark owners must have their marks validated in the Trademark Clearinghouse. But only a small number of marks validated so far have been in Arabic script and therefore relevant for .Shabaka.

Validation can normally take several weeks. However, in the light of the timing of the .Shabaka launch, Managing IP understands that the Trademark Clearinghouse is expediting applications in Arabic script. It is also promoting awareness at the INTA conference in Dubai this week.

Given the lack of Arabic brands, Adrian Kinderis, chief executive of AusRegistry Group (parent of ARI Registry Services) told Managing IP the sunrise is “a nothing time for us” and there isnot expected to be a large number of applications from trade mark owners during this period.

What’s the appeal to brand owners?

The domain will be of most interest to companies that already have one or more Arabic brands that they want to promote throughout the Arab world. Dot-Shabaka plans to include up to 100 brands in its founders programme to promote the domain.

However, some famous Arabic brands will be ineligible for registration as they are included in Icann’s name collision list. These include Al Jazeera and Gulf News.

Aside from brands, Kinderis said there has been a lot of interest from young people and those on social media in the Arab world: “The individual voice in the Middle East is very powerful. A lot of bloggers have come forward to find out about our founders programme.”

Which registrars are accredited?

At the time of the sunrise launch on October 31, there were no accredited registrars so it was impossible to register domains.

However, as of December 9, 12 registrars had been accredited and more are expected to be added.

How much is a registration?

The wholesale price is a flat $10. Registrars are typically selling registrations at about $20, but some will be offering special packages.

How risky is it for brand owners?

The fact that registrations must be in Arabic and the $10 wholesale price may mean that many brand owners feel that cybersquatting is not a big threat and defensive registrations are not necessary.

On the other hand, take up among people in the Arab world is likely to be high, given .Shabaka’s unique proposition. Brand owners who operate or plan to expand to Arabic-speaking countries will want to monitor applications to see if words identical or similar to their brands are being registered in .Shabaka and take appropriate action if necessary.

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