New gTLD domain names and dotbrand – what are they ?

The scene

dotbrand requires some understanding of the context, and of the process that led to delegation. The Top Level Domain is what is at the right side of the domain. There are two types of TLD : the generic Top Level Domains, which are generic because they are worldwide. On the other side, the ccTLD are under the supervision of regional entities. The ccTLD have 2 characters, while the gTLD have 3 or more characters.

The Top Level Domains are operated by entities, such as Versign for .com.

The early stages

ICANN was founded in 1998, when 8 gTLD existed : .com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, .org and .arpa.

7 more gTLD were added in 2000 : .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro

and 6 more in 2004 : .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, .travel

Some of these gTLD have some innovative business models or uses, such as .tel, who operates in some “template” way. dot travel is restricted in its access to certain number of applicants only. dotbrand are pushing that restriction further, as they closed to anyone that is not the brand.

The Inception

In June 2008, in the Paris ICANN conference, the ICANN board approved a proposal to extend the number of generic Top Level Domains, also known as new gTLD.

Following this decision, many working teams put together processes, systems, and rules to open this new gTLD space.

The “shooting window” for application was spring 2012. The applicants had to comply with many rules, provide financial and technical guarantees, and apply for their desired Top Level Domain. In June 2012, 1930 applications were revealed, exceeding all the most optimistic estimations. These 1930 application really concerned approximately 1200 different names, resulting in many contentions. The dotbrand had not really been fully anticipated


One of the surprises was the number of applications globally. Another surprise to all observers was the number of brand applications who applied for the brand name as a top level domain. Various names circulated for those applicants : “Closed Applicants” “Closed Registry”, “Unique Registrant”, “Single Entity”, “CorpTLD”, “Branded TLD”. The term “dot brand” seems to have gained some consensus.

There were a few obstacles for the brands, on an administrative standpoint. After long negotiations, an amendment to the ICANN contract, known as “Spec 13” was approved by ICANN board. Brands were quite happy with this solution as many of them signed their agreement just after that spec 13 was released.

Upcoming steps for dotbrand

dotbrand or dotbrands are approximately 600. Their business case is very different to the standard ICANN domain names business model. In the traditional model, a registry gets the right to operate a top level domain and resells second level domain for a fee. The traditional business model for a Top Level Domain owner is :

fee . number of domains > ICANN fees + operating costs.

The brand does not really generate revenue from their dotbrand domain names. It is generating indirect profit via increased sales, optimized way to achieve the objectives and more efficiency. Brands are presently creating mini-sites around their tradition website, in order to generate visibility, traffic. Dotbrand can also offer clear signposts some commercial partners

A key resource for anyone interested in the activation, and marketing side of dot brand is the dotbrand observatory.

Anyone interested in a more general update on dot brand and new gTLD should visit gtld.club and register to their newsletter.