Most of our readers are now familiar with ICANN’s new generic top-level domain (gTLD) program, which saw over 1,900 applications from various entities seeking to operate new top-level domain name registries. Most of these applications were for true gTLDs such as .web, .law, .book, and .family. But about a third of the applications, referred to as “.Brand TLDs,” consisted of trademarks (many famous and well-known marks), including .canon, .fiat, .youtube, and .pfizer. Each applicant paid several hundred thousand dollars per application (including ICANN’s $185,000 application fee!) and, if awarded the contract, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of its own gTLD registry. Many applicants are opening their registries up to the general public, and many have already been activated (“delegated,” in domain name parlance).
The gTLD program presents both opportunities and risks, but many brand owners and IP professionals believe that the exponential increase of available domain names is likely to result in increased cybersquatting, IP infringement, and fraud, demanding both preventative and remedial action.
According to nTLDStats, second-level domain name registrations (names “to the left of the dot”) in the new gTLDs passed the 1,000,000 mark a few days ago. As of June 15, 2014, the most popular new extension is .xyz with about 116,000 domains registered, followed by .club with 71,000, .guru with 62,000, and .berlin with 49,000. Here are the top 10 thus far:
For its part, .xyz has been touted (by the .xyz registry, but also by others), as a catchy generic suffix that has the potential to be the next .com, and with over a hundred thousand second-level domains registered since its launch on June 2, 2014, it’s far and away the most popular new TLD so far. Most other gTLDs still have fewer than 10,000 second-level registrants, and many far fewer, including about 4,700 for .events, 4,000 for .webcam, and 3,900 for .cool. The .luxury gTLD, “whose sole purpose is to provide a dedicated digital platform for all things luxury,” has only 961 second-level registrations, likely due to its luxurious annual registration fee of about $800.
The popularity of the new gTLDs will have a direct impact on the strategies brand owners must implement in order to minimize the trademark risks associated with the domain name expansion. It’s still far too early to say whether the various new registries are successes or failures. Certainly, many will have to see increased participation to realize a return on the initial (considerable) investment, and all of these figures, naturally, are a far cry from those of the existing gTLDs. The venerable .com is now home to over 114,000,000 registrations, a figure dwarfing the second place .net, which has over 15,000,000 registrations. Even .tel, sometimes regarded as a failure, still enjoys over 100,000 registrations at the second level. So the new kids on the block have some catching up to do. The .xyz TLD isn’t yet the next .com by a longshot, but time will tell.