The Beginning of the End: The Rise of Custom Domain Names - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The Beginning of the End: The Rise of Custom Domain Names

The Beginning of the End: The Rise of Custom Domain Names

The way we navigate the Internet is on the verge of a subtle, but widespread transformation.  The familiar domain suffixes, such as .com and .edu, will soon have to contend with a variety of new, subject specific domain names, such as .god or .music.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the small non-profit group in California that will deal out these new domain names, will soon begin selling-off the most coveted new suffixes to qualified candidates.  A fight for ownership of the most coveted domain names, such as .eco (for eco-friendly websites) and .gay, will be the new battleground for Internet supremacy.  The high cost for applying for one of these new domain names, $185,000 for the application plus an annual $25,000 fee, ensures that only those applicants with strong financial backing will be able to take part in the bidding war.  Those successful applicants can re-sell the domain names for $6-$50 to firms, such as GoDaddy.com, who then re-sell them to the public at a higher price.  Generic domain names, such as .sport and .music, could be very lucrative to their owners.  However, controversy could arrive when applicants share a common word in opposite sides of a dispute.

The right to buy domain names that stir public debate could play a large part in this URL revolution.  For example, the right to .abortion could be held by a pro-abortion or anti-abortion groups looking to link individuals to their own petition websites.  Other controversial suffixes, such as .nazi or .healthcare, could face similar conundrums.  The same is true for organizations on the same side of a debate, which is the case with .eco where Al Gore and Mikhail Gorbachev are backing separate eco-friendly bidders.  The introduction of this new slew of suffixes will be another attempt at capturing the audience of a new generation of Internet users who use the World Wide Web as an outlet for their political, social, and philosophical beliefs.  Furthermore, the way the common Internet user surfs the web could change on a daily basis.

Internet based searching has consistently evolved to meet human intuition.  Most people take it as a given that a website will almost always end with .com or .net, with common exceptions such as .gov or .edu.  Search engines (google.com or yahoo.com) exist with the purpose of leading browsers in the right direction in lieu of punching in a web address that may or may not lead one to their desired destination.  Once the new domain suffixes are introduced, the need for search engines may be greatly reduced.  Instead of searching for the official website for the band Queen on Google and being flooded with a myriad of unofficial websites, links to Buckingham Palace, and a slew of unwanted advertisements, one may type in Queen.music and find just what one wants.  This is a small example of the potentially intuitive and streamlined results of the new spate of domain names.  Internet traffic could be vastly reduced and bandwidth could be largely freed up.  At first, confusion may play a large part in disrupting the new form of Internet browsing, but advertising and promotion could lead to greater control of the modern online world.

The greatest challenge facing the new suffix infusion will be for domain suffix owners to spread awareness of their existence.  For the trend to last, people will need to embrace the change.  New legal challenges over domain trademark ownership will no doubt arise but old ones will assuredly die.  The possibility that .com and .net could become a thing of the past is a reality.  If the new suffixes become ingratiated into the minds of the current generations, future ones will only expand this imagination.  Widespread suffix proliferation is a giant step in the right direction towards Internet efficiency and organization.  Virtual niches will be carved out of the online landscape, hopefully with enough room for everybody.

David Fernandez