The new domain extensions, also known as new gTLDs, can be confusing with the different launch phases they have. From domain extensions to Sunrise, the different terms are technical and anyone can be easily confused by these.
While the launch of these new domain extensions will present businesses with new branding opportunities, it will also create new challenges; the most basic of these challenges will be understanding what the different terms mean and how they affect you and your business.
To help you and your search for the perfect domain extension for your business, we've compiled and simplified key terms that businesses of all sizes will need to know for the upcoming domain launch.
We want to make that getting the names you want as painless as possible and we will guide you through different terms that you need to know. Hopefully, you become an expert on the new gTLDs by the end of this blog.
What are Generic Top Level Domains?
So what are Top Level Domains or TLDs? A TLD is what you typically see after the dot; .COM, .NET, .ORG, etc.
Extensions like .CA or .US are called country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) because they represent a specific country, in this case Canada and the US.
Extensions like .COM, .NET or .ORG are called generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).
The main difference is that gTLDs are usually unrestricted, while SOME ccTLDs have certain requirements that you must meet.
Before the new gTLDs are launched, there were only 22 generic domain extensions. As the Internet grew and more people started setting up their own websites and online businesses, good and creative names started to disappear. You could say that the pool of names became smaller as time went on.
In 2005, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or 'ICANN' decided to introduce new domain extensions to give people more options. This is how the gTLD program was born and why we will start to see more domain names in the next two to three years.
Domain Launch Phases
Each domain extension will have different phases and each phase will have different requirements and/or rules. Here are the three (3) phases that you need to know about:
1. Sunrise Period
Before each new gTLD is opened to the public, it will undergo a period called "Sunrise". During this time, only trademark owners may register domain names but they can only do so if the domain matches their trademarks. For example, if you own an imaginary trademark called "12345678TM", you can only register a domain that matches your trademark. You won't be able to register "102937512CopyRight.gTLD".
Traditionally, Sunrise only had a 30-day duration and was on a first come, first served basis. With the new gTLD program, two variants of Sunrise have been introduced; let's call them Sunrise A and Sunrise B.
Sunrise A, is based on the original Sunrise model; 30 days and first come, first served. This obviously means that speed will essential in securing the domain name you want, especially if multiple businesses had similar trademarks.
Sunrise B, domain registrations will be auctioned to the highest bidder provided that they have a qualifying trademark. Sunrise B will have a duration of 60 days, allowing trademark owners to submit their individual bids. At the end of the bidding period, the trademark owner with the highest bid will receive the domain. Sunrise B made its debut when the first batch of gTLDs from Donuts Inc. were released on November 26, 2013.
Trademark owners who want to participate in any Sunrise Period MUST submit their trademark application to the Trademark Clearinghouse. It may take up to 34-days for a trademark to be validated, so act now!
Webnames.ca is Canada's only accredited Trademark Clearinghouse Agent and we offer this service here.
If you own a trademark and want to participate in during the Sunrise A phase, submit your trademark for validation now!
Landrush is the second phase of a domain extension's launch. It is open for anyone and everyone, but there's a catch; domains will be priced at a premium. For businesses, this means two things; 1) you will have limited competition for the domain name that you want; and 2) you will be paying a premium and must weigh the domain name's value to your brand.
In this phase, you'll typically see generic terms like "car" or "bet" be snatched up relatively quickly. The expected duration of Landrush for the new gTLDs is unknown at the moment, but the typical Landrush duration is 30 days.
From what we've seen so far, most of the new domain extensions have skipped the Landrush Period in favour of a longer Sunrise Period. It remains to be seen whether this launch model will change as more domain extensions are launched.
3. General Availability
This is the final period of a domain's launch when the domain hits the mainstream. This phase is available to everyone and prices are normalized.
Registering the domain name you want is the same as securing domains right now; on a first come, first served basis.
Because it is open to the general public, businesses that do not have a trademark should register as early as possible to secure their brand.
It is during this period that infringement and cybersquatting occur. To protect your brand, we recommend formulating a domain strategy as soon as possible and pre-order the domain name(s) you want.
With over a thousand new domains launching, trademark protection will be a challenge. Here are a few terms and options to help you protect your brand.
1. Trademark Clearinghouse
The Trademark Clearinghouse or TMCH, is a repository for all trademark information. A centralized database was necessary due to the large number of domain extensions being released.
The TMCH has a two-fold purpose; 1) trademark validation and 2) trademark protection.
Trademark owners who register their trademark with the TMCH will receive a Signed Mark Data (SMD) file, making them eligible for each Sunrise Period. In addition to issuing SMD files, the Trademark Clearinghouse acts as a warning system for potential trademark infringement cases.
For example, using the imaginary trademark described earlier, someone attempts to register 123456789TM.web. Both you and the potential infringing party will receive a notification about the impending trademark infringement
While the Trademark Clearinghouse won't block the domain registration itself, it provides the ability to pursue legal action against the infringing party.
More detail about the Trademark Clearinghouse is available at here and here.
2. Signed Mark Data Files
A SMD file is proof that a trademark has been validated through the TMCH. Each trademark owner will receive a single SMD file for each trademark application. Once a SMD file is received, trademark owners can qualify to participate in each gTLD Sunrise Period.
To give you a visual on how SMD files work, think of each domain registry as the boarding gate at the airport. Before you (the passenger) can get on the plane (new gTLD), you need to present a valid boarding pass (SMD file) and you need to keep your passport (trademark information) handy, just in case. Once you show that you have a valid boarding pass, you can finally board your flight and prepare for your journey.
Note that each time trademark information is updated, a separate TMCH application is required.
You are able to file your trademark information on your own, but Webnames.ca is also a certified Trademark Clearinghouse agent. Validating your trademark through us will automatically store the SMD file you receive in your account. We also ensure that it is always on-hand for any Sunrise Periods that require your SMD file. So act now!
3. Domains Protected Marks List
Donuts Inc. is the registry or operator for over 200 domain extensions. Donuts was the company with the highest number of gTLD applications, followed by Google. With over 200 domain extensions, Donuts introduced the Domains Protected Marks List or DPML as a supplement to the TMCH.
The DPML allows you to submit your trademark information once, and ensure that any domain name matching your trademark will be protected across all gTLD extensions under their control. While the DPML is a comprehensive trademark protection mechanism, it won't protect you from domains that have already been registered.
In order to submit trademark information to the DPML, trademark owners must first validate it through the TMCH. The SMD file you receive will,once more, act as proof of your trademark.
These are just some of the terms that businesses need to know about the new domain extensions. If you want to track the new domain extensions or see what new extensions are available now, visit our Domain Launch Schedule tool!
Secure the domain name that you want today at www.webnames.ca/domain
If you have any questions on the process, or any of these terms, leave a comment below and we'll be happy to answer your questions!