The first round, initiated in January, is in progress now
The second round of expansion of the Internet top-level domain name regime is on the anvil. The domain name is the concluding part of the web address that follows the dot, like .com or .org. The first round, initiated in January, is in progress now.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to go in for the second round recently. Meanwhile, it has started receiving applications for the first round from January 12, and the process will continue till April 12. March 29 is the last date for registration. The ICANN Board, however, did not set a date for launching the second round. That was because the Corporation would know the number of applications to be processed in the first round only after the application window ended. Thereafter, the initial evaluation process itself will be completed only towards the year-end.
The ICANN declared its commitment to the second round “in response to continued calls from the community.” There had been opposition from some quarters to the first round of expansion, however.
Thus, on the cards in the coming months is a sustained expansion of the generic top-level domain name regime (gTLD), which is now restricted to a handful of gTLDs like .com or .org, and many country code domains like .in for India or .uk for the United Kingdom. It will take place in at least two phases, one of which has already been triggered.
The new top-level domains can be made up of virtually any word, name or combination of letters, and for the first time, non-Latin language scripts can be used.
The announcement of the second round under the new gTLD program has eased pressure on firms which are not ready to apply in the ongoing first round, says Ram Mohan, security and stability committee liaison officer to the ICANN Board, and executive vice-president of Afilias, a domain name registry services company.
However, he opines that corporates wanting to leverage their brand presence online by applying for a TLD should do so now rather than wait for the subsequent round. The effectiveness of the mechanisms proposed for handling objections and resolving disputes — as in the case of trademarks or geographical names or other words that denote a particular profession or community — could prove crucial to the success of the new expansion regime that the ICANN has launched after years of preparation.
Though the ICANN stated, preparatory to the first round, that the application process had been designed to protect the interests of trademark owners and consumers through such mechanisms, it has had to respond to public apprehensions that ‘defensive' or pre-emptive applications may be required to ensure adequate protection. Besides seeking public comment, the ICANN has said it will take up studies to address concerns raised by its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) over trademark protection, among other things. The GAC offers the ICANN policy advice on issues of public policy, especially in the context of national laws or international agreements.