From .coffee to .email to .xyz: The Web’s crazy new reality is here

Dot-com? How quaint. A smorgasbord of new Net domains has arrived, with hundreds more on the way. There’s opportunity aplenty, but lots of trademark hassles, too.

Heather Parker is a technically savvy businesswoman. She has her own Heather Parker Photography Web site, she knows about social media and search-engine optimization, she publishes examples of her work on Yelp.

But she didn’t know about one of the biggest changes happening right now: a massive expansion of Internet address domains beyond the well-known .com, .net, and .org. If she wanted, she could move her Web site to heatherparker.photography today.

“I didn’t know .photography was something I could register for until now,” Parker said. She’s not going to, because clients likely wouldn’t know what it meant if they saw it on a business card, she added.

That lack of awareness is one challenge facing domain-name expansion and the non-profit organization behind it, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. Another is a rat’s nest of global trademark complications as companies try to protect their brands on hundreds of new Internet domains.

One example: Two Merck pharmaceutical companies, one with rights to use the name in the US and Canada and the other with rights in the rest of the world, are fighting in court over the .merck domain. Another: a UK company called Yoyo.email has registered hundreds of .email subdomains with others’ trademarks, including dunkindonuts.email, budlight.email, sheraton.email, lufthansa.email, eharmony.email, footlocker.email and ebaysupport.email.

But the new domain names are here to stay, and businesses and consumers must adjust to the new reality. ICANN approved hundreds of the 1,930 applications for the new domains, with 417 on the Internet already,

The .com suffix had special meaning for the first generation of Internet users. For children born this century, it’ll be just one fish in the sea.

And there will be plenty more fish coming. Another round of applications likely will open up by 2018, said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s global domains division. That next round will be one subject of discussion at an ICANN meeting this week in Los Angeles — along with what ICANN should do with the millions of dollars it’s garnered so far from the program. Read more

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