The issue of new TLDs is not only limited to conversation within the domain industry or among brand owners; the questions, considerations and problems that insiders have been discussing for months has blown up into a massive discussion that includes major communities and popular public figures.
Many of you have probably heard about Al Gore throwing his support behind the development of a dot-ECO domain; according to BusinessWeek, the company applying for the TLD plans to donate more than 50% of its profits to environmental and climate change and hopes to attract companies that want to promote their environmental initiatives. While it seems to be an interesting idea for a TLD, this is an example of an extension that will force brand owners to registering names aggressively. Whether or not users will take to seeking content in dot-ECO, or whether or not a company really plans to develop a robust environmental initiative, brand owners will likely feel obligated to register domain names in the space—after all, who is going to want to risk being accused of not caring about the environment, especially these days? What car company or manufacturer will want to risk having a third party register CARCOMPANY.ECO and put up a diatribe against the company?
Another prominent global public figure has also decided to speak up about new TLDs. As the Register reports, Pope Benedict XVI recently weighed in on the possibility of dot-RELIGION domains, warning against TLDs such as “.catholic, .anglican, .orthodox, .hindu, .islam, .muslim, [and] .buddhist”. The Vatican points out that there would be “bitter disputes” that would force ICANN into “recognizing to a particular group or to a specific organization the legitimacy to represent a given religious tradition.”
It is clearly a divisive issue and both of these public figures raise realistic and relevant arguments. It’s important to remember that, by opening up the domain name space, ICANN will in essence take on the responsibility of adjudicating who gets to own which TLDs and as a result, who gets to redefine the space. This is a huge task; is ICANN up to it?