Begging to Differ With Esther Dyson on gTLDs, Part 2


ADOTAS – Yesterday, ABCNamebank’s Naseem Javed began an intense critique of a recent piece by famed digital commentator and investor Esther Dyson that was critical of ICANN’s plan to sell generic top-level domains (gTLDs) — e.g., .nike, .nytimes, .walmart, etc. Today Javed, who has previously defended the gTLD plan on Adotas, continues his analysis, discussing the meaning of “generic” and the future of domain names.

Esther Dyson writes: “The issues are slightly different when it comes to ‘generic’ TLDs, such as .green. I recently had a Twitter conversation with Annalisa Roger, founder of, who told me about the value her group will be adding to .green: marketing, brand identity, raising money for NGOs. But I couldn’t help wondering why she can’t just add the same value to Instead, she will have to start with a $185,000 application fee to ICANN, and spend thousands more on lawyers to study and fill in application forms.

The $500,000 average cost of gTLD on any reasonable project is highly affordable in comparison to the production cost of a single TV commercial, or a few full-page ads in major cities, or a logo-slogan, re-branding exercises — without the launch cost, of course.

A gTLD is not expensive; it is highly justifiable against its components of power and subname branding architecture. It’s a sophisticated game and demands special maneuvers.The dot-branded generic names are a high-risk entrepreneurial heaven of high risks and high returns. Getting a gTLD for the purpose of cybersquatting someone else’s brand is ridiculous.

Only cheap, dime-a-dozen domain names make this option look attractive and lucrative.

The bigger challenges are corporate nomenclature-based. Is “green” really better than “eco”? Why?

Which would sell more? Tel, Cell or Mobile? Car, Auto or Moto?

What’s the difference between Ucar, Mycar, iDrive or Udrive from a usability and marketing suitability point of view, and which combination will create more dilution in the long run?

This clearly points to the fear among global advertising agencies and branding services that the centrality of the gTLD application gets extremely intricate at the core of nomenclature. To admit this would be to admit that names do matter. This is where the “names as a pointer” school of thought collapses.

One Internet, one world demands “one name, one owner” thinking.

“Of course, you could argue that ‘green’ already has quite a bit of value – as a generic term that stands for something. Indeed, it makes me slightly uncomfortable that ICANN can claim control of it in order to sell it to someone. Suppose, for example, that a cheese maker buys .cheese (as was suggested by one person at a new-TLD meeting recently) and uses it to favor only its own brands?”

Contrary to general perception, generic gTLD cannot be trademarked. They are licenses to drive a master name identity on cyber highways and create unlimited sub-names to join the race. The issuance of “.cheese” to Kraft or Bata simple makes their communication and customer contact point more easily — by no means does it stop others from producing cheese or brand other types of cheeses or name brands.

It is an open race for serious marketers no different than Wal-Mart buying TV spots on Super Bowl to keep their dominance. It’s an open market and all are free to play, if they know the rules.

“Proponents argue that more TLDs would foster innovation. But the real innovation has been in companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Foursquare, which are creating their own new namespaces rather than hijacking the DNS.”

The social chatter is not name-branding but rather creating noise. The Facebook and LinkedIn types did not add any new nomenclature platform, but offered free usage of registration. Building a name identity with intentions to commercialize an expandable base can only be achieved when the name management organization is fully committed to deliver such tangibles.

The gTLD is a formidable exercise in this pursuit and it will be very naive to assume that filling out a customer service card at McDonald’s or eVoting is creating namespace. The gTLD by virtue of its seriousness and size will be open to a lot of innovative applications along the way. There will be spectacular successes and catastrophic failures on most major new fronts.

“Indeed, when ICANN started more than 10 years ago, we were accused of commercializing the Internet. In fact, we were building an orderly market, setting policies for how much registries could charge, fostering competition among registrars, and making sure that we served the public interest. Unfortunately, we failed to deliver on that promise. Most of the people active in setting ICANN’s policies are involved somehow in the domain-name business, and they would be in control of the new TLDs as well. It’s worth it to them to spend their time at ICANN meetings (or to send staffers), whereas domain names are just a small part of customers’ and user’ lives. And that means that the new TLDs are likely to create money for ICANN’s primary constituents, but only add costs and confusion for companies and the public at large.”

The Internet without domain names is basically useless. If ICANN is the mother operator of the Internet, obviously apart from security and hard wiring, global naming systems are its prime responsibilities. Success and creation of domain name devices are the only key to open the hidden universe behind the website.

“Of course, if I am right, the DNS will lose its value over time, and most people will get to Web sites and content via social networks and apps, or via Google (or whatever supersedes it in the competitive marketplace). The bad news is that there could well be much superfluous expense and effort in the meantime.”

Names have provided eternal longevity to ideas and brands. Social media is a novelty of time. Bad names kill good brands. No matter how it’s chatted, typed, whispered, called, yelled or found on search, the fact remains: without a name there is no brand. The more unique and powerful the name, the more it climbs to the top while the more diluted, it sinks.

Social mediums are just another place where good names can swim. Advertising provides flotation to sinking names. How well a name identity provides the global mindshare ensures the continuum of its success.


  1. Anyone who wants .eco get in line. Both Gorbachev and Al Gore expressed interest in that specific gTLD.

    No word in neither of your articles about IDN’s, which are the only thing which unlike .eco or .nyc that is a necessity rather then a matter of choice.

  2. Ignoratio elenchi (or Smoke and Mirrors)

    Via a mix of hope and fear, ICANN’s new gTLD program is aimed to cause maximum knee-jerk reaction. Assisted by a small group of people and using finely honed scare tactics, the anticipation is that big business won’t miss several million dollars going into the pockets of a select collection of gTLD salesmen.

    It is important to remember that ICANN and their associates are just one part of an infinite and evolving universe and that alternatives are already available (e.g. it’s now possible to register new style Dashcom domain names like “business-com” or “kraft-cheese” or even “wal-mart” at zero cost).

    The Internet continues to grow and it’s only a matter of time before other new options surface – none of which will have anything to with ICANN.


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