ADOTAS – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set to kick off its New Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program (read more Adotas coverage here) on January 12, 2012, and to open up branded domain name extensions to virtually any company or organization. With the window to apply for New gTLDs only weeks away, organizations need to get out of the “wait and see” mindset and start planning a strategy.
There is still a lot of confusion among organizations around what the New gTLD program means for their brand and whether or not they should apply. With the application process opening in less than 100 days, organizations need to establish a New gTLD plan now. If they don’t, they may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage and facing increased fraud, brand abuse and customer confusion.
Here are five tips for preparing your New gTLD strategy:
1. Appoint a New gTLD expert: Marketing, eCommerce, Legal and IT are among the many departments in an organization that the New gTLD Program will impact. Identify one person within your organization to lead the effort to educate employees, drive the New gTLD conversation between different departments, and execute the decided-upon strategy.
2. Assess potential options and determine your strategy: While applying for a New gTLD isn’t the right decision for all organizations, it is important to develop and execute a strategy now. The TLD space will expand rapidly in a short amount of time, so organizations also need to evaluate their current domain registration, online brand monitoring and enforcement policies to ensure they are up-to-date and scalable. Even if an organization decides not to apply for a New gTLD, having a plan to protect its brand in an expanded cyberspace will be critical.
3. Understand the competitive landscape: With the date of the second round of New gTLD applications uncertain and the ultimate impact of New gTLDs on search engine algorithms unknown, companies need to give careful consideration to the potential impact of competitors’ applications for New gTLDs. Companies that fail to assess potential applications by competing trademark holders and industry competitors may find themselves precluded from application in future rounds, losing ground in search engine results and/or at a competitive disadvantage against others in their market that find an innovative and disruptive use for a New gTLD.
4. Plan your budget: Whether your company plans to apply for a New gTLD, to only monitor for infringement or both, there is 2012 budget impact. Those applying will need a minimum of $800,000 to $1 million to not only submit the application, but also to defend it against objections lodged by third parties and to get through the contract process with ICANN and set up the registry technical infrastructure. Monitoring for infringement and submission of objections will likely run most organizations between $25,000 and $50,000 in 2012.
5. Secure partners: Applying for a New gTLD is a complex process that requires an in-depth understanding of ICANN policies, the domain name industry, registry technical operations and the unique needs of corporations. Securing a service partner with this specialized expertise is critical to create a comprehensive New gTLD strategy and to address the program’s challenges head-on. Companies should be wary of consulting start-ups who are out to cash in on the New gTLD program, and should secure proven gTLD partners with long-term viability and vision as soon as possible to ensure success.