The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is opening the domain name system. .shop, .buy and hundreds of other names are up for grabs. All you need is money, and you can bid for the rights over one of these domains. The “.somethings” are usually called “strings”, but they are generic top-level domains (gTLDs). And ICANN recently published the long list of bidders interested in certain ones. This list clearly shows that some companies are much hungrier than other. Seems logical that Google would want to buy .google or .goog to protect its position and brand. But going after 76 top-level domains? And wanting to keep them closed only for companies’ purposes, so that no one would have the ability to register a WhateverHeWants.shop? That is quite a power move! And this is exactly what Amazon.com is trying to do.
Going after strings…
The auction that ICANN is running does not resemble the opening of the Wild West for explorers. It will not go by the rule – first come, first served. We might witness a huge Internet land grab, where only a few companies will be able buy, control and restrict public access to many “strings,” therefore reshaping the map of the Internet World.
The upcoming auction will decide who will own which gTLDs for the next 10 years, that is, from year 2013 to 2023. And because it is going to be an open auction, what suddenly becomes very important are the plans of competing companies regarding pursued gTLDs. If one of the winner applying for a “string” wants to keep it closed it will mean that for the next 10 years the public would lose access to it and that certain “neutral” gTLDs (like .shop, .ask) will be used for commercial purposes of one particular entity. Companies like Amazon and Google want to run their “strings” with a long list of restrictions and limitations, which practically means that they would make them closed to public access. It is a valid question to ask: should some neutral “strings” be owned by one company so that only they could use them? This certainly does not make internet open to everyone.
Signs of monopoly or…?
Of course there are other than commercial reasons for applying for a “string” such as the so-called “cybersquatting”. Cybersquatting is a process of buying certain domains like facebok.com or fadebook.com (so basically typos), or modifications of other companies’ product names. Cybersquatters make money off the traffic on their websites (i.e., off all the people visiting their site while trying to get to the “original” one) or off Facebook and other companies that sometimes buy out their sites to protect their brand. So with hundreds of new “strings” available, new forms of cybersquatting can cause many problems for big companies. That basically means they may be “forced” to protect their brands and register gTLDs of typos and variations of their brand names (like .facebok etc.).
So when Amazon applied for 76 domains and “Amazon and its subsidiaries will be the only eligible registrants” we have to remember that not all of those “strings” are for commercial use. But regardless of that, this future bidding can result in what appears to be an attempt to monopolize some areas of the Internet. Of course the fact that Amazon wants 76 gTLDs does not mean they will buy them all. 30 out of the 76 names are pursued by other companies, and 23 out of those 76 by Google. Just take a look at the short list of gTLDs pursued by Amazon: .movie, .video,. shop, .mobile., .talk, .tunes, .spot, .map, .show, .pay, .now, .you, .call, .box, .free, .news, .music, .store, .buy etc… And remember that Amazon won’t share their plans and explain how would they use these strings.
All we know is there will be a lot of “restrictions” for people and companies trying to register a name on one of these “strings”. We have to rely on what is written in Amazon’s applications, and they are written in such a way, to share the least information possible. So, it is not at all foolish to follow the bidding and Amazon’s next move, as we might be witnessing a new monopoly online practice and a birth of a completely new Amazon. Time will tell.