In Rush for Top-Level Domain Names, Fraud Concerns Grow

Associations are urging caution as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers reviews buyers’ applications for new top-level domain names — including many for a firm curiously named after a pastry.

Donuts, Inc., a small investment firm located outside Seattle, made headlines this week with its $57 million bid to buy 307 top-level domain (TLD) names—the phrase that appears to the right of the dot in a web address, such as “.com” or “.org.” That’s more than the number sought by Google, Amazon, and Allstate combined, according to the Washington Post.

There’s virtually no major group that will not be affected by this.

The move concerns industry groups that fear abuse of top-level domain names could harm their businesses. Donuts, Inc., has been linked to companies that provide services to spammers and others who engage in questionable business practices online.

“It’s going to be harder to stay on top on that ever-expanding TLD universe,” said Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). “ICANN has agreed to consider adding as many as 1,400 new top-level domains, which has extremely significant impacts for anybody who does business on the internet, including all associations.”

If its bid is approved, Donuts would gain control of domain names such as “.consulting,” “.foundation,” and “.hotel.”

“There’s a lot of cybersquatting and phishing that takes place on the internet, which can hurt people’s trade names,” said Jaffe. “There’s virtually no major group that will not be affected by this.”

Kurt Pritz, chief of strategy for ICANN, told the Washington Post that his organization believes these new domains will be safer than the old ones because applicant background checks are being conducted.

But many organizations, including ASAE, continue to ask that more specific safeguards be put in place.

“We remain concerned that the expanded number of TLDs could cause brand confusion and other unknown issues for our members,” said Robert Hay Jr., associate director of public policy for ASAE. “We hope ICANN adjusts their process to allow for a more transparent and contemplative structure for creating new domain names.”

ANA argued for a “Do Not Sell” list to allow companies, associations, and other groups to protect their trade names from being used, said Jaffe. Other groups have asked that requests for domains be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“No one should learn the hard way that these changes are happening,” he said. “If it’s managed properly—if the protections are put in place, if the various groups that would be affected get themselves up to speed and pay attention and take the steps that are needed to protect their interests—while this will be a bumpy road, it is one that we will be able to navigate.”

(TMG archive photo)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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