The Generic New TLD Decision Between Open or RegulatedPosted: February 12, 2012
When looking at the past of extensions that have come out, it’s important to understand all the different factors leading to success or failure. You may think that what the extension is may be the only factor or at least by far the biggest factor, but there are plenty others that can make a huge difference.
As hundreds of new TLDs are now being applied for, the decisions made by extensions launched in the past will be made by applicants of new TLDs. One of those decisions is whether the TLD will be open for any registrants or whether it will be closed/private or controlled with requirements.
As The Register reports, the .music extension being applied for will be highly regulated if it passes. The various groups backing the extension such as the RIAA are looking to keep it regulated in efforts to prevent piracy on the extension.
The company who has won the backing of the RIAA and other major industry players, Far Further, has indicated that a .music registrant would have to be a member of an organization. Additionally, they will “crawl the .music space regularly for evidence of piracy and take down domain names found to host infringing content.”
The other known applicant for .music, Cypriot businessman Constantine Roussos, has also indicated having the upfront regulation of who can register a .music domain. There may be other applicants for the TLD but chances are that if it comes down to an auction for it, industry money would likely win out or at least make it very expensive for the winner of the TLD.
This begs the question however: What about independent artists? What about simple music lovers and fans? The regulations seem to shun those kinds of registrants, but is that really a good idea?
When it comes to other kinds of extensions like a .brand or a .location, closed and regulated may not make as much of a difference in how well the extension performs. Especially in the case of a .brand, it’s likely that most of those will be closed to only the company itself and used simply as additional branding (though some may go for interesting open uses of their TLD).
When it comes to a generic extension however, being closed off and regulated has often hurt the performance of the extension. Extensions like .travel, .jobs, .pro, .mobi and .tel have all suffered from their regulations, which either limited who could register in the extension or what could be done with the domain.
That said, regulations are certainly understandable in some cases. Unlike a .com or .net where anything may go, the .travel registry wouldn’t want non-travel sites to show up, so they restricted it to travel-industry companies. The .mobi extension wanted to ensure that any site developed on it would work on mobile devices, so they developed the process of evaluating and scoring .mobi sites.
Whether or not these requirements were absolutely necessary is something we’ll all never know. There are also examples of extensions that have made good use of regulation. For example, .edu and .gov are both well-respected extensions where you generally know what to expect on them (educational institutions and US government sites), and in that sense they have served their purpose.
It all comes down to whether it’s really necessary for many of the generic extensions about to come out. Does .music really need to exclude independent artists and fans/lovers of music in efforts to fight piracy? Why is there a notion that piracy would overrun the extension in any case, or whether it would damage the extension when piracy hasn’t damaged the likes of .com, .net or .org which have all seen plenty of piracy sites?
This is something each new TLD applicant will have to decide for their extension, and there’s not necessarily a general “right answer”. Regulations on .bank for instance would almost be a given, while regulations on .com alternatives such as .web would seem unnecessary given .com’s openness. As with everything else regarding the new TLDs, we’ll see what happens.