Got Excess Cash? Buy Your Own TLD!!

It’s not new, and not even news for most IT pros. ICANN is allowing anyone with enough cash (and the ability to pass a supposedly 360 page long application form) to buy their own top level domain. The TLD can be virtually any word and in any script.

I am opposed to this for a few reasons. First, it seems to confuse things even further for people who are already being taken advantage of by scammers and spammers. Obviously it seems impossible for a scam artist (or co-op of scammers) to secure their own false TLD. That’s not the issue. It’s merely a matter of confusion for users who used to know that was safe, but now are unsure about Windows.Microsoft. Yes, humans adapt and yes people will simply have to learn anew, but the next several years, I believe, will be a user-education nightmare that scammers will take full advantage of.

Next, it may make URL based filtering extremely burdensome for edge network devices. This also brings into play the expansion of domain names into non Latin based character sets which is a separate issue. Again, the opportunity for scammers and unscrupulous business entities (perhaps adult entertainment or proxy services) to wreak havoc in the confusion. Yes, URL based filtering is not the best solution, but DNS based blocks are nice for small businesses.

Third, just what is ICANN going to do with all that money? The upfront cost is $185,000 with a $25,000 per year renewal fee. That’s some serious recurring income. ICANN already makes a not entirely immodest 60 million a year (PDF link), but the sudden uptick in income… what will be done with it? Can they handle it? What benefit to the internet community will be performed with it? I hope for the best, but expect some questionable spending practices to be revealed in the next five years or so.

Also, just what criterion must be passed and are they sufficient? Or are they too exclusive? The price alone is prohibitive, but are the criterion a further barrier to small brands? This definitely sounds like it’s targeted to land the big fish. Smaller brands that have some claim to TLDs like .Windows, .Soda, .Computer and any number of other TLDs have a very real possibility of being priced-out and questionnaired-out of competition. Certainly that’s just they way business goes, and there’s nothing necessarily unfair about that in all circumstances. However, I fear that this move may simply be a nod towards major corporations and other entities that have fat pockets.

Rod Beckstrom, President and CEO of ICANN is quoted as saying “Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind.” But really, what good is this really doing for the internet? “Global human imagination” sounds like great spin for “We’re making crazy bank and hoping the ensuing naming confusions doesn’t screw up too badly before we can strap on our golden parachutes!”

Tell me what you think about this. Confusing or Creative? Money grab or freedom at it’s finest? Beneficial or a scammers paradise?

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