The original author: Kevin Murphy


The ICANN working group tasked with creating policies for the next round of new gTLDs is wrapping up its work this week, setting up the battle lines for the next phase of the program’s development.

Members of the cross-constituency Subsequent Procedures for new gTLDs group, known as SubPro, have until a minute before midnight UTC Friday night to declare whether they’re not happy with any parts of the 373-page document (pdf).

It’s expected that some groups and individuals will have beef with some of the SubPro recommendations, which will be included in the Final Report as dissenting minority statements before it is sent off to the GNSO Council later this month.

The report, the product of five years of discussions, will largely affirm that the next new gTLD round will proceed along roughly the same lines as the 2012 round, with some of ICANN staff’s historical ad-libs being codified and a few new big concepts introduced.

New additions include the idea of a pre-evaluation process for registry service providers, enabling applicants to pick from a menu of pre-approved back-ends and avoid the cost of having their technical prowess evaluated for every string they apply for.

The price of applying could be kept artificially high, however, to discourage gTLD stockpiling, and the report will also recommend banning the coexistence of single/plural variants of the same word.

One area where there was definitely no consensus was the issue of “closed generics” — a non-brand string reserved for the sole use of the registry — it’s going to be up to the GNSO Council and ICANN to muddle through this one.

While the consensus call marks the end of the working group phase of new gTLD policy development, there are still many substantial hurdles to leap before the next application round opens.

In the last round, the policy was approved by the GNSO Council in 2007, and ICANN didn’t start accepting applications until the start of 2012.

it may not take five years between policy and launch this time, if only because many of the new recommendations are merely affirmations of the status quo, but there are new mechanisms ICANN will have to implement before the next round opens, and we should probably expect more than one comment period on iterations of the next Applicant Guidebook.

The road between now and the next round is still likely measured in years.


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The original author: Tony Kirsch


We’ve often talked about how dotbrand top-level domains create safe namespaces and an opportunity for their owners to establish a trusted home on the web.

And whilst this results in a range of benefits such as eliminating squatting or concerns about expensive domain acquisitions in the aftermarket, the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the benefits of speedy domain registration to support crisis communications.

Crisis communications can occur for a variety of reasons across large organizations, including responding to topical important news, customer feedback or product/service related issues.

The COVID-19 crisis is one of the most devastating situations that has faced the global economy in modern times, and many large organizations have found the need to produce digital content to support their business needs and provide information to their customers and clients.

The use of a .brand to achieve this can be highly advantageous for a number of reasons – let’s take a look at just a few.


1. Domain squatters buy all the names immediately

With relatively low domain pricing available on most popular extensions these days and plenty of options to choose from, buying multiple variants of domains that relate to a topic is a low cost investment.

As you’d expect, the vast majority of these are in .com but there are also plenty of domains that have been registered in ccTLDs and other gTLD extensions – both traditional and new TLDs.

How many you might ask?

According to some industry sources, there are almost 100,000 names that have been registered in 2020 that relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you’d imagine, these often have the keywords ‘corona’, ‘virus’ and ‘covid’ within them.

To be clear, many of these names will be used for legitimate purposes so we’re not suggesting that this is only the realm of bad actors on the web. However, if you’re even a few minutes slow on grabbing that campaign domain that you want, you can rest assured that the domain name you want will be taken and you’re either searching for a domain that’s close to what you wanted or entering the aftermarket to buy at a higher price if it’s even available.



2. Many names are often used for scams which harm consumer trust

As reported recently by Trend Micro in this article, the use of COVID-19 or similar domain names have been used many times already by malicious actors.

Whilst it can be hard to picture why this would occur at such a scale, imagine for a moment the number of people seeking to profit from this virus in an illegitimate way – including those with fake information, selling untested vaccinations and seeking donations for non-existent organizations to name just a few.

Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of these types of domains and it’s reasonable to expect that trust levels from many within the online community with these types of websites is not high. Nonetheless, education on online behavior is not consistent across the world and plenty of opportunity for illegal and immoral activity that harms the consumer exists, especially in times of panic and increased research.


3. These scams often cause deeper issues

Further information from the Trend Micro article claims that COVID-19 domains are regularly being used to inject malware into local machines and causing permanent security breaches.

We’re talking here about attacking internal networks, rendering local machines inaccessible and potentially hacking sensitive data from businesses and individuals.

Sure…this can happen at any time and isn’t specifically related to COVID-19. However, history is a good indicator of future activity when it comes to understanding how bad actors get the attention of the vulnerable using topical and seemingly legitimate domain names.


4. Crisis creates new levels of exposure for brand owners

Many of our large clients have reported a need to register substantial volumes of domains to protect their brand in relation to COVID-19, causing additional expense and headache.

Organizations that are involved in finance, technology and pharmaceutical are particularly impacted as they need to suddenly ensure that squatters do not register names that contain both their brand and anything related to COVID-19.

Even organizations such as Facebook which are under increasing regulatory pressure to ensure legitimate content publishing were forced to register over 500 COVID-19 related names such as according to Domain Name Wire.

Sound ridiculous? Perhaps so.

But as any brand manager will tell you having experienced this for years, preventing rather than legally challenging is always the preferable option.



.brands in use with COVID-19

So what does this mean for .brand owners and how can your own .brand TLD help you in these challenging circumstances?

Below you will find some great examples of sites that are currently being used to support COVID-19 communications by .brand owners and where applicable, a list of the other supporting domains that were created to ensure a seamless customer experience in the event of mistypes.

Few organizations have such a crucial role to play in beating the Corona Virus due to their extensive range of testing facilities. Abbott have used this domain as a redirect through to their site but the content itself is brilliant at outlining information about the disease and what Abbott is doing to assist with testing and research.

We all know that increased time at home and social distancing equates to a higher than usual reliance on logistics and delivery and German owned, global distribution organization DHL is no exception.

With millions of customers and employees all over the world, this information portal outlines DHL’s commitment to its stakeholders throughout this crisis.

The domain and have both been created to forward through to Fox News’ statistical and news portal which is housed at

This site is being promoted heavily through the media cycles and would be experiencing substantial volumes of traffic as a result of the large amount of public interest.

Google are no stranger to using their .brand TLD for important social purposes and is no exception.

This .brand redirects through to the Google COVID-19 information hub – almost Wikipedia like in terms of its unbiased and succinct information presentation on causes, symptoms and prevention tips.

Domains such as and also redirect to the same location.

Another avid .brand user, the Australian Football League is currently on hold like most other sports globally. But with millions of fans within Australia who are very keen for information on the sport’s hopefully imminent return, this .brand redirect goes to the news portal on the League’s main site.

Another highly involved research center against COVID-19 is the Geneva Headquartered organization CERN. Famous for starting the WWW, CERN’s new COVID-19 research program will “draw on scientific and technical expertise and facilities at CERN, in the Member State countries and beyond, and will be carried out with that community and in close contacts with the relevant health institutions and experts from other fields.”


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The original author: Tony Kirsch


Here’s a consistent story from our clients that’s becoming commonplace as we travel the world sharing the .brand story.

A new person comes into domain management. They’re technically astute, but find themselves managing a large portfolio of domains, sometimes tens of thousands of names. There is a sense that this is more of a historical benefit to the business than a current one – especially with the clear data indicating that the vast majority of them are not receiving noticeable volumes of traffic.

Nonetheless, the portfolio is maintained in order to mitigate risky domain non-renewal, helping to keep the IP professionals comfortable, and avoiding BEC scams to clients/customers.

A large amount of time and money is spent in managing these domains, and despite the efforts of the domain management team to advocate their strategy and business purpose, they are constantly digging up websites that have been created by some well-intentioned individuals who weren’t aware of the internal domain registration policies. The process to acquire these domains and put them onto the companies centralized domain platform has to be done – but it’s never as easy as it should be and finds the domain manager generally spending hours chasing employee owners.

One such client at a global advisory firm, who has asked to remain anonymous, recalls their first reactions to finding out that their company had their own .brand TLD.

“I saw the immediate value of the .brand in terms of running our business unit and cutting costs. From the domain management perspective, we’re always being asked to create domains for areas across our global business – and increasingly, these are not available and force us into expensive campaigns to purchase domains. Having our .brand allowed us to create the domains that we wanted, in real time, without fear of availability or expensive purchase prices.”

This is a common experience that we hear from our clients. Often what starts as a key reason to use their .brand turns into a range of downstream benefits that were previously not apparent.

Similar client experiences reveal a pivotal moment where the downstream benefits changed things substantially.

A global financial services client shared such a moment for their firm.

“As we experimented with our .brand, we found that its capability was so much deeper than we had expected. We completed a couple of test cases with our .brand which created a significant amount of internal interest. We took the opportunity to collaborate with Marketing to define the ‘perfect end state’ for our Brand utilizing our .brand.  The elimination of one off domains, and the defensive portfolio, for limited campaigns reduced our domain portfolio costs and significantly increased global Brand awareness.  It also provided an easier way to track campaign effectiveness”

Not only did we increase the awareness of the Brand Management function through our usage of .brand, we also created significantly less subdomains on our main .com site. We see this as a significant advantage for managing and securing the site as we have over 1000 subdomains off our main site today.

In the past, managing all the subdomains on our .com Zone File was significantly more complicated and very difficult to track. In reality, this was fundamentally riskier for the organization due to constant changes to our core Zone File and we were regularly finding traffic going to the wrong place as promotions or products died off but were not updated within the main site’s Zone File.

With our new focus on using our .brand, management and ownership of the domains are easier to track and when a promotion is over, we can simply remove the domain or forward the traffic to the main .com page.  This reduced the risk of domains being used for fraudulent purposes.

With our .brand, we manage it completely and no-one can access the TLD, or take over a domain which we feel will create much less confusion long term – especially when these historical subdomains were allocated to third parties.


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Some helpful tips for making the keep/delete decision.


I like to spend the final week of the year preparing for the next. This includes reviewing the domains in my portfolio that expire over the next 6-7 months and renewing the ones I want to keep. I ran this exercise last week and documented my process in the hope that it’s helpful to readers.

I currently have about 1,700 domains, which means about 150 are up for renewal in a given month. It takes time to review 6 months’ worth of expiring domains to make decisions, but it’s time well spent.

Here are some resources I use to determine which domains to keep/delete and my thought process.

Afternic leads: If you have a lot of domains at Afternic, they probably get quite a few leads that you never hear about. The buyers don’t end up being qualified, or their offer is nowhere near your floor price. But knowing that a domain receives offers is important when making keep/drop decisions. You probably don’t want to drop a domain that receives real offers, even if they are only $500. Ask your Afternic account manager for a leads report for your portfolio.

Parking revenue: Parking isn’t what it used to be, but the data is still relevant. Some domains (even new top level domains) can still earn their keep from parking alone.

dotDB: dotDB lets you quickly see how many extensions a domain is registered in, as well as how many other domains the keyword appears in. Search for your second level domain to find out how popular it is in domain names. A paid version will show you if the domains resolve to websites.

Estibot: Knock it all you want, but Estibot is a great tool for figuring out if you’re overlooking a valuable aspect of your domains.

After reviewing all of this data, I ask these questions:

1. Will this domain ever sell for a lot of money? Or is the pool of buyers (or their financial wherewithal) too small to make a difference?

2. Was the domain previously registered in a lot of extensions but the owner(s) let them expire? Perhaps I thought there was a lot of demand for the second level domain, but it was really one person who let all of the alternatives expired.

3. Is the singular/plural version of this domain available for hand registration? If so, the domain might not be worth much.

4. Did I reduce the price substantially last year and it still didn’t sell? If it was priced below $500 and didn’t sell, it’s probably time to cut it.

5. Does this domain have a big/important/valuable subject matter, but it wouldn’t ever make sense for a company to use this domain for a website? The two aren’t always correlated.

6. Have I sold domains that are similar to this one? Some domainers invest in ‘themes.’ If none of my domains within that theme have sold, the market is telling you something. Likewise, have I received inquiries/leads on any of the similar domains?

7. How long ago was this domain registered? If it was a long time ago, resist the urge to think about sunk costs. Why hasn’t it sold?

I ended up turning off auto-renew on about 80 domain names, so roughly 10% of the domains due to renew in the next 6 months. This is more than usual. But I figure the cost of renewing domains is only going up, and perhaps I should have cut some of these domains years ago.


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