Domain names take centre stage as ICAAN meeting hits homestretch

By James Ratemo

Cost of registering new Internet top level domains, trademark protection and cyber security will today dominate a final meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Board, which climaxes in Nairobi. At a public forum on Thursday, country representatives argued that trademark protection and high cost of accrediting new domains would derail the introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), as they urged ICANN board to strengthen policies on the accreditation and registration process to avert wrangles. Generic top-level domains include .com, .net and .biz, and geographical top level domains include .asia and .eu (for European Union) and .au (for African union).

Applicants are seeking proper mechanisms to be used in registering new geographical top level domains, like dot africa and expand gTLDs to include city names such as dot Nairobi (.nairobi), dot Kampala (.kampala) and dot Lagos (.lagos).

Awaiting clearance

Experts say trademark protection and high cost of accrediting new domains would derail the introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). photo: file

The board is also likely to rule on the process to be adopted in registering the new geographical or special fields top level domains (like .Africa ) ahead of the Expression of Interest in July, and will make rulings on the fate of applications for new domains awaiting clearance.

In the ICANN open forum for the Internet community, participants argued that the .africa name should not be managed by a private company but a non-profit organisation on behalf of the continent.

In an interview with The Standard, Prof Narku Quaynor said the African community must be involved before the domain name is registered to ensure, an individual does not hijack the name for individual benefit.

"The African community needs to do it together. No body should do business on behalf of Africa. Revenue from the .africa domain name should be for capacity development in Africa," said Quaynor.

Sophia Bekele, whose company, DotConnectAfrica, has also applied for the name from ICANN, told The Standard that the ‘.africa’ domain name has already been endorsed by the African Union at their recent heads meeting in Ethiopia.

"Technology experts in Africa have already done a concept paper on how the domain name should be managed for the benefit of the whole continent," said Pierre Dandjinou, a board member, African Network Information Centre.

ICANN developed a process for addressing trademark issues, allowing applicants to suggest new gTLD extensions and for objections to be expressed by those with commercial or community heritage interests.

Applicants will be required to pay a Sh4.18 million ($55,000) nonrefundable fee at the first step, and other fees, based on whether disputes arise over gTLD applications.

But the fees have been termed steep by some developing countries, and ICANN will soon rule on what will be done to protect famous geographic names within developing countries whose communities may not be able to afford the fees to apply for or reserve new gTLDs.

buy domains

According to ICANN, board trademark holders will have an opportunity to buy domains before they hit the open market, but there are questions related to whether companies would be forced to pay more for new generic domains if they already own a registered trademark whose name would be in the new gTLD.