The Latest in Internet Annoyances: Generic Top-Level Domains

The generic domain Hunger Games have begun. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has started filtering through requests for Generic Top-Level Domains – or gTLDs – the .commonword domains like those used by museums and employment sites. The gTLD bids would give companies exclusive use of generic words to create websites ending in .love or .cool. Google submitted bids for its trademarked words like .youtube and .gmail but also for words like .family and .how.

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Small businesses shouldn’t worry that they missed the boat to buy their .names. Fees to claim certain words start with $185,000 for a bid and would add up to $25,000 annually to keep the name registered. The fight over gTLDs isn’t for the average business owner, it’s for major companies and antitrust groups.

Corporations have submitted more than 1,930 bids for the exclusive user of hyper-generic words. Amazon is facing the brunt of the controversy by applying to own .book, .author and .read. While Barnes and Noble is less than thrilled by the bid, The American Association of Publishers is on the attack the by releasing a letter that uses Amazon’s words against it to keep them from winning the bid.

In short, Amazon makes clear that it seeks exclusive control of the “.book” string solely for its own business purposes, notwithstanding the broad range of other companies, organizations and individuals that have diverse interests in the use of this gTLD or its second-level domains by others or themselves.

No longer is the gTLD battle a fight between private companies, this is a capitalism issue that could damage the future landscape of the Internet. Giving .book to Amazon gives them a monopoly for all book e-commerce as bookname.book or author.book would take users straight to Amazon’s website. (It should be noted that Google also submitted a bid for .book but is kindly letting Amazon take all the bad-PR.)

For those who don’t read as much as they like and aren’t up-in-arms over Amazon having exclusive rights to .book, think about Google buying .meme versus .meme as an open domain. Rather than meme generators or viral websites popping up, a domain like grumpycat.meme could go to a Google page. Or, think about how dull campaign season would be if one company owned .sucks instead of the American people having free access to create marcorubio.sucks or hillaryclinton.sucks.

Grumpy-Cat-Takes-A-Protege-Funny-Little-Kitty-PictureHowever, if gTLDs aren’t sold to the highest bidder and start becoming popular, companies will have to madly buy all possible URLs that could tie back to their company. Think back to when .xxx domain names went public. Universities were buying names like northwestern.xxx to keep people from creating websites featuring pornography with their college’s branding or with their students. Now institutions would have to buy URLs ranging from website.awesome to website.zoom.

Opening gTLDs is a pandora’s box either way. If major corporations get exclusive rights to domains, they can start building monopolies around words like .movie and .music. If gTLDs are opened to the public, prepare for websites ending in .icecream and .unicorn. Website owners will struggle with SEO as consumers will be confused as to whether mcdonalds.tasty or mcdonalds.delicious will actually take them to the website they want. So where do you stand? Do you support ultimate power in the hands of corporations or want to take your chances with chaos in the hands of the people?

About the author

Amanda Dodge