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Bonfire of the brands: ICANN's top-level domain selloff

Is small biz priced out of the market?

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Do not sell

A solution proposed by the US Association of National Advertisers, a vocal opposition to the gTLDs since they were finalised in June, was a "do not sell" list, a list of brands and trademarks that is kept by ICANN so companies don't have to buy up every iteration of the name on the list.

"Proposals for certain types of reserved lists or similar ideas have been discussed previously in the community – an example of one of the complexities raised here is the difficulty of developing objective global standards for determining which trademarks would be included on a list," ICANN explained.

"The question seems to assume that there is only one rights-holder that would be relevant to a given domain name - however, recall that the same term can be a trademark for more than one class of goods or services, and in more than one country."

So, wait a second, the list doesn't work because trademarks are difficult to deal with, but the objections system is going to be rapid?

What seems more likely is that the system will work well in clear cases, but if your company name is at all ambiguous, you'd be better off buying defensively, which leaves those with shallower pockets with a tough decision, pay up to $185,000 now for a gTLD or face unknown legal costs later.

The problems don't end there either. One issue that Sweeney flagged up hasn't received much attention, but could prove a big hindrance to the SEO-uninitiated: Google doesn't like companies to have multiple websites.

"Google can blacklist your business if you have multiple sites directing back to your business, so if I did mycorporation.xxx and it was still us behind the scenes but I presented a whole new site, then really it's like I'm trying to get two listings on Google, mycorporation.com and mycorporation.xxx, for the same underlying business, and Google does not look fondly on that," she said.

Businesses with multiple domain names need to do a simple redirect to the same site, so you don't have multiple sites for one business, but multiple addresses for one site, a nuance that companies without SEO resources might not know about.

"When you're talking about big business, it's not that big a deal, but when you're talking about smaller companies and they're trying to protect their brand, then they have to proactively buy those domain names... for smaller businesses, it's not inexpensive," Sweeney said. ®

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