Firms keen to use their names in Web addresses

Firms keen to use their names in Web addresses

SINGAPORE - The "gold rush" for new domain names is heating up as local firms Temasek Holdings and Changi Airport Group join the likes of Google and Amazon in going after Web extensions that have their own names.

The new extensions - .temasek, .changiairport, .google and .amazon - will join the 20-plus familiar ones such as .com, .net and .org currently in use.

This is part of the New Generic Top-Level Domains initiative by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to ease the .com name crunch and allow more businesses to run a piece of the Internet. Icann, a non-profit United States-based group, has been managing global Internet names and addresses since 1998.

Around 1,000 suffixes, including generic ones such as .shop, .web and .land, are expected to be rolled out over the next two years, starting from later this month.

Last year, more than 1,900 organisations world worldwide, including those looking to make money by selling domain names at the wholesale level, applied to operate these Web extensions. These organisations are now waiting to sign agreements with Icann to operate these Web extensions.

The Singapore Government's investment arm, Temasek Holdings, applied for the .temasek extension, for both Chinese and English, to be "closed", or not for resale. A spokesman for Temasek told The Straits Times that this was done to "protect our brand name in cyberspace".

"Cybersquatting, or hijacking of domain names, is a real concern," said intellectual property (IP) lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird.

Cybersquatters typically register companies' trademarks as their own before asking for money to remove or transfer the Web addresses.

IP protection is also the reason national airport operator Changi Airport Group and two other local firms - agri-business group Wilmar International and telco StarHub - requested for the .changiairport, .wilmar and .starhub extensions to be closed.

Ms Wang Li-Na, StarHub's head of consumer marketing, said easy-to-remember domain names also serve to improve online brand recall.

In particular, StarHub wants to build online communities with the creation of mobile.starhub, tv.starhub and broadband.

starhub around its three lines of businesses, as outlined in its application submitted in June last year.

But protecting one's IP this way does not come cheap. To operate a Web extension, companies pay US$185,000 (S$231,000) for the application and a US$25,000 annual fee.

Still, the high cost has not deterred global giants Google and Amazon from submitting a large number of applications.

Google alone applied for 101 new extensions, including hotly contested generic names such as .blog, .drive, .game, .app, .search and .cloud. Amazon applied for 76 new extensions, some of which overlapped with Google's.

They initially wanted these extensions to be closed. But after a long and heated debate with the Internet community on Icann's website, Google said it would open up .blog for public registration.

Amazon, on the other hand, said it would open up .cloud, .game, .app and .search.

Icann is still deciding on the applications as the roll-out would be phased over the next two years. Businesses here can also pre-order their names next to nine new suffixes, such as .holdings, .guru and .ventures, with local registrars like IP Mirror.

Ms Janna Lam, chief executive of IP Mirror, said this would allow the owner of a clothing business with the domain name "thejennieshop.com", for instance, to shorten the name to "thejennie.shop" or "jennie.shop". She said: "They need not settle for long domain names or alter the spelling of common words because someone else has registered their .com Web address."

itham@sph.com.sg


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