The Tower of Names: Global Top-Level Domains Set to Climb

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ADOTAS – What’s all this curious noise in global media about the booming ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) generic top-level domain (gTLD) dot-names?

Why have 1,120 separate bodies from various parts of the world applying for 2,000 such names at an average cost of a million dollars per name? The startup Donuts outsmarts all by investing $100 million and applying for 307 names, and holding company TLDH  is poised for 92, while Google goes for 50. What do “dot canon” or “dot deloitte,” “dot sucks,” “dot nyc” or “dot lol” have in common? Who are the new winners, losers and spectators of the naming games?

The entire final list of applied names is being released on June 13, 2012, by ICANN, and to bring higher-level understanding on global naming issues and gTLD name evaluation, a series of senior level educational events has been released at www.azna.com.

As anticipated by the emergence of new worlds, slowly the global business names and domain names combined have reached critical mass, creating endless indexes and name hierarchies — creating millions of dysfunctional names for each superstar name brand, massive name duplication, chaos and confusion for every name-branded good and service, surrounded by perpetual legal and trademark battles.

If you gathered all the names currently being used by businesses all over the world, they would stack up like a mythical “tower of names” in some fantasy land, high and mighty, glittering and arching above the clouds, piercing the sky. There are some 500 million business names in the world, ranging from very big to very small, super-active to barely active operations; these huge business name registrations drive the pulse of the global economy.

To explain all this in simplistic terms, the internet is a collection of websites, only accessible by domain names. Today there are 220 million domain names — a number expected to reach 1 billion by 2020, creating a cyber “tower of names” and causing global tectonic shifts of brand image, name identity and brand powers. The same domain names, when they transcend the daily business reality, are managed under conventional business nomenclature rules and trademark laws, designed to ensure visibility under various layers of protection. These two different types of naming procedures are clashing with trademarking and name branding methodologies when positioned against speedy internet-based global digital cyber-branding platforms.

For example, say in the last century only one global company was allowed to sell millions of tires daily, but it had no say on how it fitted the various vehicles. If the long-term goal was to create transportation for a mobile society, public safety and long-term viability would become crucial, especially if all the tires produced were square-shaped. Let’s relate this to domain names. Would square-peg domain names, designed to skate across global cyber-branding platforms, fit round-hole trademark procedures for global roads, sidewalks and highways? The internet created “global cyber-brand naming” rules for cyber name identities, now forcing the “use of name” issues to become controversial with the current sluggish trademark-based “brand name identity management.” The pros and cons of two very different types of name approval systems, timelines and processing somehow point to holes in the old trademark procedures, and also in the methods of image branding communication.

When sluggish trademark procedures start to collide with hyper-speed global cyber-branding upgrades, organized name hierarchies emerge to better serve the marketplace. Equally, old global branding models are challenged as disfunctions around the “towers of names” become serious problems. For example, if you stacked up all the business names of the world that are currently in use, they would stack up like an imaginary tower of names piercing the sky. Now, suddenly, monstrous cracks in the “tower of names” start to appear, as intricacies around how the higher the name visibility, the higher the real estate price come to the fore. The ICANN gTLD controversies are not just about cyber domain name expansions.  In reality, they are about the hidden challenges to trademarking limitations of global name management systems and the collapse of traditional name-branding methodologies. Hence, there is such a fierce opposition from the advertising, branding and trademark practitioners from all over the world.

To use waste as an example, mathematically it can be proven that there are 100 top diluted business names being used by 100 million businesses around the world. These users are convinced that they have trademark protection and keep spending small fortunes to stay on top of their brand-name success. In reality, the majority don’t. Mathematically it can also be proven that there are at least 5 million businesses around the world that would directly benefit from the ownership of an exclusive name identit as a gTLD and enjoy a higher level of business marketing interaction.

With the right application and name behind it, a gTLD can be the fastest and most economical maneuver to acquire a distinct global identity. Global advertising and branding services perceive this as a threat.

Trademarks have served society very well over the last few centuries, and today they still play the most critical role in defining and protecting the rightful owners of marks. However, the procedural sluggishness fails to match the requirements of cyber speed. Somehow, if the name-filing complexities and country-by-country legal conflicts could be automated to create graphical, easy-to-decipher charts, the losing battles or winning streaks would save billions in wasted endless chase.

On the other hand, the domain name registration system, from its inception, had no regard for trademark rule of law, as a first-come, first-served basis was indirectly created to allow intellectual property theft in broad daylight. Decades later, it created a booming defensive registration industry and also URDP uniform domain name conflict resolution policy applications — where appointed lawyers decide the future of conflicting domain names for several thousands of dollars. Currently, there are some 2,000 to 4,000 such conflicting cases being processed each year. Are the two systems feeding each other? Where are the better and streamlined procedures to eliminate waste caused by easy and simple access to initiate conflict?

Is global silence really that golden? Such granular nomenclature issues were never discussed in depth at any forum of ICANN, or by any other concerned organization where the centrality of agenda challenged the current trademarking and global name branding procedures and focused on the future of the global naming complexities in juxtaposition to global domain name expansion. Instead, some mythical fear-mongering has been created by global branding agencies and law firms, where half-knowledge among the top global cadre was used to its greatest advantage. The granular debate for now is simply lost in the fog of war.

ICANN has taken the bull by the horns. The opposition to GTLD is huge, and the spectators are slowly warming up for the fight.

The beneficiaries: Small/medium enterprise businesses of the world, dreaming of playing in the global space. Great and solid names held with a carefree and non-hostile attitude, to focus on unlimited multi-directional growth.

The enemies: Owners of badly-structured names. Old trademark procedures designed to consume time, cost and energy and slow strangulation to new and emerging brand names. The old advertising and branding mentality, which thrives on bottomless budgets, needed in order to keep the bad names alive.

The adjustments: Educate and re-educate. Evaluate every single name in use in the organization and acquire deeper understanding of all the surrounding issues of marketing, advertising and branding, conduct a line-by-line audit and recover the wasted budget, and reinvest in a new-age internet under long-term naming strategies. Upon discovery of your own losing battle, where your name identity was never meant to gain an upper hand, be prepared to face harsh reality. Introduce new thinking and re-train your teams.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The huge cost of obtaining plus the huge cost of maintaining a gTLD makes current TLDs, like dot-com etc, now available on the market look really cheap.
    Top level domains, for their global appeal are still and will be for a long time to come the king of the hill.

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