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A new ICANN registrar agreement is on the way - What does it mean for Gandi customers?

With the arrival of new gTLD extensions set for late 2013, ICANN has, more or less in agreement with registrars like Gandi, decided to implement a new registrar accreditation agreement. We will be required to sign this new contract to continue registering new domains. This will have ripple effects through the industry for everyone who holds domain registrations, and is therefore subject to ICANN's contracts. The effects will mainly have to do with the validity of customer data in the whois database.

New extensions on the way!

Unless you have spent the last year studiously avoiding Domain Name news, you probably know that there is something happening at ICANN this year. Yes, that's right, ICANN has authorized the creation of nearly 2,000 new top-level extensions over the next 3 years. That's a big number! Probably more than you will want to register. While this flood of new possibilities is exciting, and we do hope that it enables a lot of creative activity, we expect the new extensions to be seriously underutilized, for the most part.

Price Increase for .COM/.NET/.BIZ

As you may already know, ICANN, the regulatory authority for domain names, authorized the principal registries (.com, .net, .org ...) to increase their pricing in 2007. Of course, the registries were not slow to take advantage of the opportunity. A 7% increase in 2007, and a further 7% in 2008, was followed by yet another 7% increase in mid 2010. Now, Verisign will once again be increasing prices, theortically for the last time, on 15 January 2012 by a further 7%. This makes for a total real increase of 31%, which, given the margins on the product is an enormous pill to swallow. Here is what we will do for you...

Expert SEOs give their opinion on Liberalisation

Looks like our ICANN report has generated quite a bit of buzz. We've been covered in hundreds of online publications in 10+ different languages all over the world (summary will follow towards the end of the week).

But it seems we've hit a rich vein of SEO implications and generated a bit of buzz in that community. I've just come across this blog summarising the view of many of the SEO big boys.

Interesting stuff and some good issues raised.

Jeff Behrendt says "The only clear winner of the proposed new TLDs is ICANN - at $185K per application, that’s a gravy train they are going to want to ride for many years."

That may be a little unfair. The fee is partly in place to make sure that ICANN can provide a good oversight to new extensions being created and protect trademark holders and general internet users from people setting up dodgy extensions or without the technical competency to run them. They've said this may come down (or up) as they get into the process. The fee should be high to ensure a higher quality of registry. This could be the beginning of the internet name space clear up, with higher standards leading to fewer squatted, speculative or advertising domains.

Michael Gray says - "In most cases opening the web up with more TLD’s is just going to create confusion for consumers". A point also made by Patrick Altoft about consumer confusion.

Well that seems to be what our consumers have said in our survey, so they agree. Though this liberalisation does open up the opportunity for specific TLDs and therefore potentially more simplicity and order. Michael's example of .movie is precisely along these lines, why have when you can have The film industry could create this extension and protect its use solely for films. I think consumers could get used to that, and it will make more logical sense. More literal meaning to the name space. Roll on the sematic web. Tim Berners-Lee would be so proud ;-)

Hugo Guzman talks about the importance to big business - "The liberalization of domain extensions is already grabbing the attention of Fortune 500 companies".

This was supported by our research too. Still 2/3 were unaware this was happening, but those that did know were both excited and afraid of it, depending on which department you spoke to (e.g. excited = marketing, afraid = legal). Owning .brand could allow you to more effectively manage your brand as you create the association with customers that only sites on .brand are really yours. Though Steve Russell is right, this will cost a lot more than the $185k setup fee.

Anyway, food for thought, and thanks guys for your views.

How the domain name industry works - polluting the name space

Would you trust a 'for profit' company to represent your best interests? Perhaps. But when your interests diverge, will they represent you or themselves?

Following the overwhelming success of our first article on the domain name industry (1 comment ;-), we naturally thought you were begging for more! I know, I know registrars and registries can be a bit dull, but it is important. Believe me when something goes wrong with your domain name, understanding this can be quite important. So if we look at how and where issues can be dealt with, and who has influence in the industry it sheds a bit more light on the subject.

How the domain name industry works - part 1

Registry, Registrar, Registrant, (Registratum, Registrata, Registrunt). Ok, so the last 3 are made up words, and the domain name industry wasn't really founded in ancient Rome nor part of your everyday Latin dialect, but what do the first three words actually mean and how does the domain name industry work? We've been working in the industry for years, so we have a pretty good idea. But we can also understand why all this really can just sound like ancient Greek to many people and not mean a thing. So in the spirit of lifting the lid and keeping things honest (as Gandi likes to do), we thought we'd give you a quick overview of what it all means.

UK government theatens domain name industry, 'Get your house in order or we'll step in and take over'!

This was my first Nominet conference and to be honest I thought it would be quite a dry, corporate affair however I was in for a surprise!

Much like the Internet as a whole, governance of TLD's (top level domains) and ccTLD's(country specific) has grown organically and varies from country to country. To-date the UK and the US governments have taken a non-interventionist approach to governance. The US have taken a totally freemarket approach and gave the right to manage .com to Verisign who run the registry as a profitable and commercial business. Nominet run the .UK registry theoretically as a not for profit business however the fact they made £25 million profit this year has raised questions among it's membership and the government.

ICANN - domain name extension liberalisation: who benefits?

Some of you may have seen earlier in the year that ICANN (the body in charge of regulating the domain name space) announced that it was going to liberalise the market for domain name extensions, e.g. the bit that follows the last '.' in a name, .com, .net.,, .eu, etc.

What this means is that in theory anyone can apply to become a registry in their own right, and get .theirname so that you can buy domain names from them and get yourname.theirname. ICANN have now announced that the 'evaluation' process for new extensions will be costly, $185,000. Well costly for you and me, but perhaps not for funds or speculators.

But what is point in all this? Does it matter? Should we care?

The justification for doing it is that the internet is growing, more people are coming online, it allows more choice, blah, blah, blah. Which has some truth to it. But in some ways there is already an infinite number of domain names available across each of the roughly 280 existing TLDs (from .ac -> .zw - there should be a catchy alphabet song for them!).

But what does it mean for you, the customer? Well, it does mean you can get more choice. You will be able to buy yourdomain.something. Whether this helps is a different matter. Many of these new extensions will be quite specific, which may help, e.g., or, but it may just create more and more confusion that your chosen name can have so many different extensions, which one is really you?

One result of this will probably be that more and more people will want to authenticate that their domain name, whatever unusual form it takes, can be explicitly linked to them. The most common way to do this at the moment it through SSL certificates, where a third party will guarantee that the domain is owned by a particular individual/company, and that you are browsing on that site in a secure way. So this is something to think about and watch out for...

There is one group of people that will undoubtedly benefit from this liberalisation and that is the spammers, advertisers and squatters.

In the old days if you wanted to protect your brand you could buy all 280 extensions. No longer. With a potentially limitless number of extensions, there is no way that you can get yourbrand.allofthem, so even the most well protected global brands may find a few more lawsuits on the horizon. The beneficiaries of this will be the squatters and advertisers who will use establishedbrand.newtld as an advertising site, or domain auction target (buy this one back, for $xxx).

And then there will be the increased volume of ad sites, just showing endless streams of ad feeds on domain names with no real purpose except to make money for their owner. I always think about this in terms of domain names as property: if the best properties in your town (domains on your tld) were closed down and became advertising bill boards, would you stand for this as a resident? This is exactly what is happening online. Most of the best names/words are turning into bill boards, and it will only continue unless there is a regulatory change to stop or limit it.

So there you have it, the change is coming, the benefits are unclear. But one thing that is clear is that unless ICANN take more of a role in setting and enforcing codes of content for domain ownership/usage, we may find as customers we are browsing in a larger and more polluted domain space.

What do you think?