Or are they? Only time will tell.
If you haven’t already heard, this week spells the start to what could be one of the biggest shake-ups to the Internet since its creation over 30 years ago.
As of Thursday, January 12, 2012, professionals on behalf of an established corporation, organization, or institution (but not as an individual or a sole proprietorship), have until April 12, 2012 to register almost any word they like (including brands) as a domain name.
This is known as a gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain).
Why is the new gTLD offering so important?
This is important because it will likely change the way people find information online and how businesses plan and structure their online presence, according to ICAAN, the global Internet body behind the change.
Brand and marketing managers for major brands and communities need to be aware that companies and organizations with competing names—even if they are in unrelated industries, can own your biggest asset…your name.
“Time is short,” chief executive Rod Beckstrom said in a recent blog post. “If you have not done so, now is the time to get expert advice and get your marketing people engaged to take advantage of new opportunities.”
He added that even those brands and entrepreneurs who do not plan to apply for a gTLD need to be vigilant, or at least be aware of the program’s built-in trademark protections.
“If you do not choose to apply,” Beckstrom said, “you should still pay attention to those who do, and use the protections built into the program to safeguard your brand or community.”
To this end, and once all the applied-for strings have been posted for public viewing, businesses will have the opportunity in May of this year to object to any which they feel would infringe their legal rights.
Ninety US-based industry associations have opposed the change, as have 40 leading corporations -including Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson, claiming that the introduction of gTLDs will harm brand owners, confuse consumers and expose them to more internet fraud and cyber attacks.
You gotta pay to play. Available for (gulp) $185,000 each, the offering of gTLDs — whether it’s .canada, .alberta, .edmonton, .oilers, or .nike, will visibly expand the existing pool of 22 web address suffixes, such as .com and .ca.
If you are interested in the application and evaluation process, this video is a must-watch, as it distills a 180-page application document into 26-minutes.
Other resources can be found on ICANN’s gTLD website at newgtlds.icann.org