By Andy McNeil*

A pdf version of this article may be downloaded here.

Introduction – A Primer On Current gTLDs

For many of us, “.com” is the necessary element for most of the Internet addresses we use on a daily basis for shopping, banking, news or entertainment (think amazon.com, wellsfargo.com, cnn.com and espn.com, for example).  The seemingly ubiquitous .com suffix is formally known as a generic top-level domain name (or “gTLD”) in internet parlance.  Although there are 20 other gTLDs such as .net, .info, etc., .com is by far the most popular gTLD.[FN1] Suffice it to say that most Internet users, including this author, when faced with a domain name featuring anything other than a .com suffix, are immediately confronted with suspicions of inferiority and concerns regarding legitimacy.[FN2] Although the number of Internet users continues to grow exponentially, the number of available gTLDs to meet the ever-growing need for unique domain addresses has remained static.  It appears, however, that the “.com-centric” way of Internet-addressing is prepped for change, and in a big way.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit entity chosen by the U.S. Department of Commerce  in 1998 to oversee the Internet’s  naming system,[FN3] is formulating plans for expanding the naming rights for gTLDs.  While proponents of this gTLD expansion—including ICANN—argue that this expansion will provide for greater innovation and choice among Internet users and businesses, opponents contend that this expansion is akin to opening a Pandora’s Box of problems for those with a significant intellectual property presence on the Internet.  Considering that there are more than 270 country specific gTLDs, the scope of this unprecedented expansion is significant for those businesses with an international Internet presence.