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Industry hits out at ICANN domain name application process

High application fees mean smaller firms will miss out on securing their business domains, experts warn.

Domain name

Industry watchers have criticised the application processed used by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to assign generic top level domain (gTLD) for favouring larger firms.

For an initial cost of $185,000, corporations were offered the chance to purchase new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) through an application process co-ordinated by ICANN.

This could be viewed as a silent privatisation of the web.

Among the most popular domain names were .app, which had 13 applications, and .home and .inc, which had 11 each. In cases like these, firms will have to hold auctions, with the domain name going to the highest bidder.

The organisation hopes the initiative will open up more competition, but domain name registrar, Names.co.uk warns it could lead to a "silent privatisation of the web", as big brands like Google and Apple shell out mega bucks to secure the ones they want.

However, Names.co.uk said the process could work against smaller players who cannot afford the hefty sign-up fee.

Stephen Ewart, marketing manager for Names.co.uk, explained: "Our concern is that this could lead to more Facebook-style walled gardens as big brands seek to keep you in their own areas of the internet.

"Make no mistake, this change to the domain name world will lead to more competition and consumer choice, but it could also be viewed as a silent privatisation of the web for better or worse."

Not only does the process favour large firms, but Ewart also points out that the web is still heavily dominated by the US.

For example, 911 of the 1930 total applications were from US-based firms, including one who applied for 101 domain names.

Campbell Newell, partner at intellectual property law specialists Marks & Clerk LLP, said the large number of applicants in this first round shows there is a great demand for firms to have their own slice of internet real estate.

This is because customised domain names help with branding and reputation, he added.

However, some firms feel the pressure to register a domain name just to protect their brand, explained Newell.

"[N]ot all applications on this list will represent a proactive desire to incorporate a branded domain name into marketing strategies.

"Some applications will have had a defensive motivation, [for instance] businesses and organisations wishing to ensure that a certain domain name cannot be used or abused by others," he said.

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