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Google Plots Web Domain-Buying Spree

Search Giant Among Brands That Say They Plan to Apply for Generic Top-Level Domains

By Published on .

This week marks a major step toward a dramatically expanded internet, but only a few brands -- including Google and Deloitte -- say they'll take advantage of it.

On April 12, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will stop accepting applications for a new round of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, the part of a web address that appears to the right of the period ("com" and "org" are among 22 current top-level domains). The application process is expected to result in hundreds, if not thousands, of new gTLDs, which will likely start going live sometime next year.

But of the major marketers contacted by Ad Age , only a few said they're planning to apply for new gTLDs. A few said they weren't planning on it. The majority refused to comment, mostly likely not wanting to tip off competitors to their intentions while the application window is still open.

A Google spokesperson said the company will indeed apply for several top-level domains.

"We plan to apply for Google's trademarked TLDs, as well as a handful of new ones," the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. "We want to help make this a smooth experience for web users -- one that promotes innovation and competition on the internet."

Google refused to provide more details, but it's likely that ".Google" and ".YouTube" will be among the trademark TLDs the company applies for. Google also wouldn't comment on how it would use its new TLDs, but one could see using ".YouTube" as a way to mark a brand's YouTube channel destination -- for example, www.AdAge.YouTube.

Deloitte and Canon were also expected to submit applications for TLDs. Canon provided the following reasoning in a 2010 announcement: "Canon hopes to globally integrate open-communication policies that are intuitive and easier to remember, compared with existing domain names such as canon.com."

Pepsi's Shiv Singh
Pepsi's Shiv Singh

Facebook, who some expected to make a run at the ".Facebook" TLD, has not applied for it, spokesman Brandon McCormick said in an email. Pepsi's will also remain on the sidelines of the TLD game, according to Shiv Singh, global head of digital at Pepsi's. Mr. Singh cited the costs of acquiring and operating a TLD, which carries an initial application fee of $185,000, as well as his belief that consumers' browsing habits will take years to alter.

"Consumers are always going to think about first going to MountainDew.com or Pepsi.com before they think about Drink.Pepsi," Mr. Singh said. "And that 's not going to change anytime soon, and maybe not for a few years."

Marketers with strong established brand names need not rush into the process. While an external entity could theoretically apply for ".Pepsi," the application would almost certainly be rejected because of Pepsi's legal rights to the name. However, brands whose names are also commonly used nouns, such as Apple, could run into competition. And brands that own rights for a specific industry (say, Delta Air Lines vs. Delta Faucet) could also lose out on their ".brand" TLD.

ICANN's process for the rollout of new internet infrastructure has been vigorously attacked by marketing trade associations, including the Association of National Advertisers.

In January, the ANA proposed that ICANN create a "Do Not Sell" list on which companies could register their brands for no cost to keep them out of the TLD process.

An ICANN spokesperson declined to comment on the ANA's recommendation.

"Right from the beginning ICANN has failed to identify why we are doing this to begin with," ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a recent interview. "The rationale is still not clear."

The ICANN spokesperson said that ICANN will publish a list of applicants and the TLDs for which they applied on April 30. Brands can lodge objections to applied-for TLDs afterward.

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