The post-pandemic future of web domains

Nick Wood and Hayath Hussein at corporate domain name specialists Com Laude explore the new approaches for managing corporate URLs that are needed in today’s unpredictable world

The events of the 2020s so far have been – let’s be honest – entirely unpredictable. In this time, the digital landscape has transformed at a pace no one could have foreseen, presenting both new opportunities and challenges for those working with and using web domains. These are in addition to the pre-existing issues we have long grappled with – and the many tasks we had to pause during restrictions.

It’s safe to say the next decade will be busy for us all. Here’s what our experts think is likely to happen across key areas of the domain name sector as we march forwards through the roaring twenties.

Could there be a date for dotBrands?

The much-anticipated second round of ICANN applications for new Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) remains unscheduled, but to meet future challenges head-on we should see ICANN’s Operational Design Phase get underway in the next year (with a budget of $9m). This will plan out the key operational elements for the second round.

If completed on schedule, ICANN should be ready to open to new gTLD applications in early-mid 2024. If anything, the lengthy gap between the first and second rounds has given those who secured dotBrands time to explore their uses and showcase their potential, tempting more to consider acquiring their own.

Recent years have seen both Google and AWS increasing their usage of their dotBrands, while more companies are recognising how valuable these unique domain names can be: they can boost trust, provide peace of mind when it comes to security and scams, and have proven to be powerful tools in marketing initiatives.

This facilitates new models and an understanding of value in a different way – it’s not about selling domains but brand reputation. This will translate into an increased interest for those without a dotBrand to secure one. The application process is a complex one though; no wonder there is an impetus to start planning now. Companies want to be poised to jump as soon as ICANN gives the green light.

Reviewing the portfolio

When it comes to Corporate Domain Name Management, compliance will remain front of mind in the years to come, not least because international legislation and policy continue to change rapidly. Those responsible will take extra time to ensure domain-related data (such as company addresses, phone numbers, and trademark registration details) are updated to stay ahead of abrupt registry rules changes.

We’ve seen it recently in Qatar and Australia, as well as an auditing process in China. These incidents only persuade domain managers to be more vigilant to prepare for as the future is becoming less predictable.

Money will also move front of mind due to the costs associated with the pandemic, plus the economic fall-out now being experienced. All businesses are facing a squeeze resulting in a careful review of budgets and we will likely see increased scrutiny of the cost of a domain portfolio.

With this in mind, we can expect companies to start removing unnecessary defensive domains while also increasing their use of tools to protect IP and keep an eye on threats to trademarks, avoiding unnecessary costs. Cybercrime has proliferated during the pandemic and with belts tightening, protecting trademarks and assets is only becoming more critical.

Restarting the engines at ICANN

Equally critical for those in the community is phase 2 of the Policy Development Process (PDP) on Rights Protection Mechanisms, which will review the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Abusive domain registrations continue to be a wider issue and ICANN’s activity is supported by a strong, voluntary initiative from the registries and registrars, determined to work together to address DNS abuse such as malware or phishing.

To gain traction, there needs to be an agreement on whether trademark infringement should be included in the definition of abusive registration. Hopefully, we will see movement on this issue over the next few years.

As we look ahead at the future of domains, we should see a completion of the various initiatives that are defining how domain name registration records should be made available, including the System for Standard Access/Disclosure (SSAD). This system will determine how brand owners can access registrant data for potentially abusive domains in a post-GDPR environment.

Equally important will be the completion of the policy for Specific Curative Rights Protections for International Governmental Organisations (IGOs). This could see IGOs protected under the UDRP, but details will remain key when negotiating with national governments and international treaty organisations.

Succeeding in a post-pandemic world

After a turbulent and anxious start to the 2020s, things can only get better. We will see ICANN start to move and the industry shift. In the meantime, in-house it’s wise to double down on security and review your portfolios carefully to ensure you are in the best possible position to overcome the challenges from the health crisis, as well as any unforeseen hurdles in the future.


Nick Wood is Executive Chairman and co-founder of Com Laude and Hayath Hussein is their Global Operations Director

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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