ANA Opposes Swath of New Web Domain Levels

Why .law, .bank or .car Might Be Bad News for Marketers

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Association of National Advertisers is sounding a big warning about a proposal to open up top level internet domain names from the current ones like .com, .net and .org to a wide assortment of character strings.

In a filing today, the ANA told the board proposing the changes -- the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN -- that the switch would create an expensive nightmare for marketers, raising cyber-squatting and copyright issues that could cost marketers considerable money to fight.

Dan Jaffe
Dan Jaffe Credit: ANA
"We believe that implementing this proposal is certainly premature and highly likely to be counterproductive," wrote Dan Jaffe, ANA senior VP. "Brand owners will thus find themselves forced to pay dramatically more to maintain their existing brand equity."

ICANN's proposal would open up the current 21 top level domain names to other extensions beyond the current ones, which include .org, .com, .net and .gov. Supporters have said the change would allow more choices and help in categorizing domains with the possibility of creating names around hobbies, games, or other interests.

The financial health of ANA's member companies depends on maintenance of structures (legal, economic, technological and cultural) that support creation and maintenance of strong brand identities. A coherent system for naming, identifying and advertising the availability of products and services is an absolute necessity for a strong economy. The new program threatens the health of this existing well-developed system for identifying products and services in the marketplace."

ANA is warning that it also poses the possibility of opening up the internet to more scams and more attempts to steal brand names and that marketers, after winning the right to domain names, could suddenly find those domain names compromised, as a change of only one or two characters could lead consumers to a different web site.

"The potentially unlimited expansion will greatly increase the costs of brand management and will create new opportunities for others to infringe, phish and engage in other deceptive practices. As a result, brand owners and consumers will be net losers."

The letter comes on the final day that comments are supposed to be received by ICANN on the domain name changes and part of ANA's plea is the deadline be extended to allow additional comments.

ANA also is asking for a far slower approach to any domain name expansion, some recognition of trade names and some confirmation that buyers of some generic names (e.g. .bank or .securities) go to marketers qualified to use those terms.

"ANA believes that ICANN's proposal to open the generic top level domain space to virtually any character string and its outline of a program for an initial application round for applicants who wish to operate a registry deserves extremely careful further scrutiny and analysis," said the letter.

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