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Grassroots Brit project plans .app top-level domain bid

Having to call itself DotAppApp.com for now

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A British-based community project has emerged with the aim of applying to run ".app" as a new top-level internet domain.

But the budding organisation, which currently has about 75 paid-up members, faces a funding challenge if it wants to win what is expected to be a highly competitive bidding process.

The project, at DotAppApp.com, was founded by software consultant Matthew Baxter-Reynolds after he noticed that many mobile application developers are forced to use obscure domain names, often using the suffix -app.com, to market their apps.

When ICANN approved its new top-level domains programme last month – enabling any well-funded organisation to apply for basically any extension after the dot – Baxter-Reynolds decided to put together a community application for .app, to make it easier to find a good domain.

"We're trying to do what I think ICANN was intending with this process, letting people create their own rules and their own spaces on the internet," he said.

The community is still discussing its policies, but the one rule that already seems firm is "use it or lose it". This .app, if ICANN approves it, would not allow domainers to buy up quality names and leave them dormant while trying to resell them at a higher price.

There's also an idea to have the community vote on which app developer should be able to use premium addresses, such as puzzle.app, at any given time.

But the project faces substantial hurdles if it wants to win .app, not least of which is the requirement to pay at least $185,000 in ICANN fees and show funding up-front for three years of technical operations.

Baxter-Reynolds said that the organisation is looking for commercial sponsorship to fund the bid, and is trying to attract as many paying members as possible. Signing up costs between $25 and $100, and members get to "pre-register" a .app domain.

But DotAppApp's main problem is that .app is likely to be contested.

While no other company has publicly revealed plans to apply for the extension, it may be attractive to companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, to support their mobile strategies.

Companies in the domain name industry are also likely to bid, purely for its value as an attractive string – .app is viewed as a piece of potentially lucrative real estate.

Under ICANN rules, competing applicants for the same string are encouraged to come to a settlement between themselves. Failing that, the gTLD goes to auction and the deepest pockets win.

Baxter-Reynolds said he could see the community working with a vendor "where our interests are aligned", but competing against an applicant with dollar signs in its eyes would be a different story.

"We would push to get the really big players to invest in us as a community body. They could join the board and have some control," he said. "I'm not sure how it would pan out if we're up against somebody who's only in it for the gold rush." ®

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