The president of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) Fady Chehade told the Wall Street Journal that the organization will launch Chinese character options for top-level domains in the second half of this year. (A top-level domain is the part of the Web address after the dot, so the Chinese characters would replace the .com, .net, .org’s, etc. that you see in most Web addresses).
The roll-out is part of ICANN’s plan to introduce address endings in characters other than the Roman alphabet. Other languages in the works include Arabic, Korean, Russian, and Japanese.
The announcement marks a change in tune for ICANN, which was created in 1998 by the U.S. Department of Commerce to manage domain names. The organization has resisted previous efforts by China, Russia and other countries to control Internet addresses, and been criticized for not letting each country manage their own Internet addresses. In December at the World Conference on International Telecommunications, China was among a coalition of countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, that submitted a proposal to gain more sovereignty over Web addresses, which faced opposition at that time from other nations including the U.S., Germany and the U.K. Critics said that allowing different countries to manage their own Web addresses could potentially lead to charges being placed on data transmitted over international boundaries.
According to the WSJ, the language additions are “part of ICANN’s push to reduce global opposition to its regulatory power by leaving behind its U.S. roots and becoming a more international organization.” Another sign that the organization wants to work more closely with China includes the launch of an “engagement center” in Beijing to collaborate with the government on issues like URL trademarks.
Chinese characters can already be used in the main part of a Web address, but after ICANN rolls out its new changes, companies and organization will be able to add Chinese character address endings. According to ICANN, both Tencent Holdings and Sina have already applied for the extension .weibo in Roman and Chinese characters. Other major Chinese Web companies that have bid for new extensions include Alibaba Group and Qihoo 360.
Another step along the long road of ICANN expanding the number of sanctioned top-level web domain names, so that TLDs such as .pepsi, .food and .app can join the usual suspects of .com, .org, .net and so on. ICANN has launched a Trademark Clearing House (TMCH) to create a ”foundation mechanism for brands to protect their trademarks against potential infringement”. If you’re opening the Pandora’s box of allowing almost .anything to become a TLD — and ICANN has been criticised for the entire endeavour – creating and maintaining “a single database of validated trademarks” to provide a “rights protection mechanism” for tracking trademark ownership and claims was always going to be unavoidable.
ICANN started accepting applications from companies and organisations for customised or generic TLDs at the start of last year. The full list of businesses that had applied was released in June, with ICANN saying it would take it between nine and 12 months to consider the applications before the new TLDs can go live.
ICANN said the TMCH is aimed at helping to allay brands’ concerns about how their trademarks can be protected when the new TLDs are launched. However brands will have to pay for the privilege of protecting what’s theirs: recording trademarks with the TMCH costs between $95 to $150 per year per trademark record per year “depending on the number of trademarks submitted and their registration period in the TMCH”.
This yearly fee buys brands two things: firstly the “pre-launch opportunity” to proactively register domain names which match their trademarks ahead of wider public availability of the new TLDs. And secondly, they get access to a trademark claims service – which will mean they receive a warning when anyone else registers domain names that match their marks.
Any trademark holder — private individual or company — can apply to register their marks with the TMCH. Only registered trademarks that are already owned by businesses may be recorded — so the service will not apply to generic TLDs (such as .food and .books) unless a company owns the term as a trademark.
The TMCH is operated by Deloitte. “Recording marks into the TMCH is the most effective way to ensure that IP is appropriately safeguarded across all of the new web extensions that will go live this year,” said Jan Corstens, Partner, Deloitte in a statement.
An international panel representing a selection of governments from around the world has registered more than 240 objections to proposed generic top level domains, including .wtf, .baby, and .islam.
The Governmental Advisory Committee has contacted each applicant directly with an Early Warning notice which generally asks for further information or requests clarification, but in some cases advises withdrawal of an application.
Maintaining a healthy online business ecosystem is a big consideration, so a number of the notices deal with terms relating to regulated market sectors (.finance, .casino, and .dental) and warn applicants that they must have safeguards in place to mitigate potential misuse and minimise the likelihood of harm to consumers.
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ICANN’s application window for top-level domains closed today, and Google wrote a blog post announcing they had applied for a couple choice TLDs. While the list of requested suffixes has not been published in full yet, Google gave hints about which dot-whatevers it hopes to purchase.
Google said it applied for TLDs that are related to its trademarks. Think .google, .android, and .chrome are probably on the list of ICANN applications. Additionally, the company applied for TLDs related to core businesses—like .docs, possibly also .play and .books and .maps?—and suffixes that would, “improve user experience, such as .youtube, which can increase the ease with which YouTube channels and genres can be identified.” Vaguely, Google finished by saying it pursued entities the company thinks, “have interesting and creative potential, such as .lol” (Dear Google: please let .yolo and .rofl be off the list—.brb can stay if it just serves up funky 404s).
The ICANN sell-off of top-level domains has been controversial with many businesses. Many have said they feel threatened into buying domains on other suffixes to prevent squatters that might tarnish a brand’s image, especially true of .xxx-type suffixes. According to PaidContent, ICANN receives 18 cents every time someone registers a domain name, so the incentive to create many more domains (forcing brands to buy them up to maintain their image) seems like a quick buck. Still, the opportunities for more creative domain naming can’t be ignored. Now, whoever buys cats.lol first will be the ordained King of the Internet.
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Half of all online pharmacy domains are registered by just two of the world’s registrars. That’s according to a report concluding the non-profit agency that governs the issuance of Internet addresses may not be doing enough to enforce its own regulations.
Internet.bs, which claims it’s headquartered in the Bahamas, registered 33 percent of the world’s “rogue” online pharmacies according to the report. The report was released Monday by a group that tracks unlicensed sellers of precription drugs online. Researchers from LegitScript said the figure was even more dramatic when considering the tiny share Internet.bs enjoys in the overall domain-name market.
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