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The New Internet Domain Battle – A World Beyond Dot Com

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Back in the original Internet boom and bomb of 1999/2000 I’m sure most our readers were aware of the cyber-squatting phenomena that managed to make numerous chancers into millionaires. Well, the domain space is opening up in October 2011, this time companies will be able to purchase a domain that reads as simple as say www.brtineyspears or say www.jayz – yep you read that right! This new revolution is doing away with the requirement for; .com.net .au etc. However, this new freedom comes at a high cost in TMV’s view.

In 2000, there were just 31 million domain names, in 2002, there were 840 million people using the Internet, by 2006 there are more than 92 million websites online. Come 2007 more than 1.1 billion people had access to the Internet and in 2011 Internet usage has passed the 2Billion user mark. Globally over 200 billion emails are sent per day and during two months in 2009 more video was uploaded to YouTube than has ever been aired by the big three US TV networks combined since 1948.

The domain name system is the glue that binds the Internet together enabling users to navigate the masses of information available on the Internet. The international Domain Name Industry body Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is changing the regulations so brands, companies and in the music industries case artists and bands can register a domain that is fully representative of them without having to have a .com, co.uk at the end of their top-level domain. Subsequently users will just have to type in http:// or www. and the artists name or music business to be directed to the requested artists’ page.

The opportunity in respect of this new Top-Level Domain (TLD) is compelling and will revolutionize the Internet to deliver:

  • New opportunities for ownership, brand protection and innovative digital communication strategies
  • Intuitive domain name access and navigational behaviors
  • Clearly identifiable online communities bound by personal interests, language and geographic locations

HOWEVER, the ability to undertake this comes at a substantially cost to the brand or artist. Firstly, a world beyond .com will require an in-depth submission of why you deserve to have your requested domain registered to you/your business. The submission application fee is a whopping $185,000 USD. Yes, you also read that right. To top it of there is no guarantee that you will receive your requested domain.  If a competitor or anyone for that matter with a spare $185K decides they want that domain they can also apply. If more than one person applies for the same domain then it becomes a highest bidder auction and sadly nobody receives the application fee back – regardless of who wins the domain name.

The questions this raises for the music business are immense. If you are a label with rights to the artist’s web domain or the artist themselves will you deem it important to own your domain without a .com .co.uk etc.? If not then it’s not really a problem. Yet if the answer is yes and your artist’s brand is critical to your online efforts than you will need to ensure: a). that you actually have the cash and b). that you might also require some extra cash on top of the expensive application fee as if a competitor were to also apply for the same name than it will be down to the highest bidder. This is the key problem TMV have with this forthcoming release of new domains.

The playing field in terms of entry to this new domain release is extremely expensive in entertainment brand terms. TMV can understand why it would not seem expensive to brands such as Nike to have www.nike as domain – it is detrimentally expensive for the music business. If one major label has say 10 priority ‘World’ acts that is whopping 1.85 million they will have to fork out just to apply – with no guarantee of success. It could also open up extreme situations whereby competitor digital music services apply for competitors say Spotify or .rhapsody domains. Where does that leave your business?

Going further what would happen if a pirate site such as the pirate bay pays the application fee for say… U2 and it then becomes an auction between the legitimate business/label/artist that realistically should have ownership of the new domain.

It will be interesting to see who applies for the .applemusic domain…or even www.music domain and who actually wins the battle for ownership.

Going further, what impact will this have on search engine results from Google and Microsoft Bing etc? As both labels, artists and brands have invested heavily in both SEO and SEM. What happens if an artist’s label decided not to invest and stay with ludacris.com and then someone else a competitor label or artist does apply for the www.ludacris domain – who do the search engines deliver a preferential result too?

Whilst ICANN states that these new top-level domains are being released this way with such a high cost attached to deter cyber-squatting. TMV does ask will not only mean that the cyber squatters will be richer than previously? If cyber squatters do manage to secure domains over and above legitimate brand owners who should really have ownership of them? Will it not only push prices up for domain names successfully purchased by cyber squatters and as such either way brands, artist’s and labels alike will be forced to pay excessive prices over and above the $185,000 application fee?

On a final note, whilst ICANN is a non-profit organization it obviously stands to make a massive amount on this new release of domains.  To get further information regarding the changes and new domains mentioned in this post please click here (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm).

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