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Taylor Swift had to buy objectionable domain names before trolls could; Why ICANN?

Taylor Swift

ICANN so I do!

Popstar Taylor Swift and tech giant Microsoft were essentially forced to buy domain names ending in .porn and .adult, such as TaylorSwift.porn, TaylorSwift.adult, Office.porn and Office.adult, before trolls could get their hands on them. (Hat Tip: Gururaj S) Why? Because the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is putting up these two generic top-level domains (gTLDs), along with .sucks and 545 other current options (new ones get added every month), for sale on June 1. Looks like Richard Branson and London-based club Stringfellows have also purchased .porn and .adult domains.

Celebrities and businesses are being given an opportunity to buy some of the domains up for sale before it is made available to the public. While the .adult and .porn gTLDs cost about $99 a year, .sucks costs a whooping $2500 a year. However, during this sunrise period the price for a .sucks domain is expected to go as high as $25,000. In comparison, regular customers can register a .sucks domain for $9.95.

Why release such domain names in the first place? ICANN, apparently, thinks that these “descriptive domains” will be beneficial for Internet users as they will reach their intended destination faster. Also, it’ll allow for greater parental control over sites their children visit. Oh! So, this isn’t a shakedown scheme? ICANN isn’t forcing businesses and celebrities to pay up to protect their names? Glad we could clear that up.



Last year, the US Senate Commerce committee chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller had said (pdf) that these gTLDs, especially .sucks, were designed to force businesses and individuals to keeping paying to block possible damage to brand name. Vox Populi Registry, the company behind .sucks, believes brands should use it proactively and provide consumers with a platform to criticize. Hold on… isn’t Twitter and Facebook doing a great job of that?

What’s possibly worse is that Vox Populi will potentially pay about $1 million to ICANN is extra registry fees. It will be paying the yearly $25,000 registry fee, plus $0.25 per domain registration fee AND an additional $100,000 as registry access fee. Is ICANN authorised to charge such a registry access fee? In addition Vox Populi will also be paying a $1 registry administration fee for the first 900,000 domains. Here’s the agreement between ICANN and Vox Populi.

The Taylor Swifts of the world don’t really have an option but to buy such domains, if they want to protect their brand name/image. They would happily pay a few hundred dollars a year to ensure that a .porn website bearing their name remains content-free, than wait for a troll to buy it, and ICANN knows this.

In 2011, there were 22 gTLDs, which has now increased to 548 gTLDs in English and over 1300 including other languages. It would be great if ICANN provides us some data on how this has impacted searchability of content online, instead of adding new ones every few weeks and laughing all the way to the bank.

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