A fantastic new opportunity is coming for Internet crooks. ICANN is the organization, chartered by the US Commerce Department, to oversee the Domain Names for the Internet. The organization is international in scope and wants to be more international by loosing the controls by the US government. When you enter a domain name such as www.cybersoft.com it breaks down in the following way; the .com is the top or first level domain while CyberSoft is the second level and www is the third level. It can be expanded from there. When a company buys a domain they are buying the second level attached to a first level. Most people are familiar with the .com, .mil, .net and other first level domains. When you buy CyberSoft as a second level domain it is associated with only one first level domain. If you want to protect the name CyberSoft from potential poachers then you need to buy the domain CyberSoft for every first level domain, assuming that you can. There are currently about 22 topical first level domains and another 250 country code domains. That means that a company that didn’t want any confusion and wanted to protect their name needs to buy 272 domains plus all common misspellings for those domains. ICANN wants to expand this by another 1,000 top-level domains per year. One of the best arguments given to ICANN for not doing this is the fact that this is going to be a field day for Internet crooks. Right now typo squatters are common. Again, lets use the cybersoft.com domain. A typo squatter may register sybersoft.com or sibersoft.com or some other common misspelling. They can then use the site for crooked purposes while the users thought they were dealing with the CyberSoft company. Consider that now the crooks don’t have to use a misspelling they can register some new domain. Would you think cybersoft.con was still CyberSoft? You might not even notice the letter M was replaced with the letter N! Remember most people click on their links; they don’t enter them by hand.
Yet another crooked game the thieves can play isn't illegal. Lets say someone in another country registers coke.xyz or ibm.xyz. They offer to sell the domain to the real Coke or IBM Company for $100,000, which is less, then the cost of fighting them. This is nothing short of blackmail but it is being made possible by ICANN’s greed.
Why? It is always about the money. ICANN makes money-selling domain services and this is a great way to force people to buy more domains. ICANN splits their operating costs between the domain registries, which are normally companies. The more registries there are the higher their operating costs can be without complaints. There has been a lot of people complaining to ICANN including business, people involved in trademark enforcement, Congressional hearings, etc. about this new plan. ICANN doesn’t care. ICANN is a nonprofit so it doesn’t have to pay taxes.
To be totally fair some expansion of the first level domains are needed. Domains in other languages such as Chinese should have been allowed a long time ago but that is a far cry from what ICANN is proposing. ICANN claims that they are putting in protections but personally, I think their protections are too little. My guess is that this is going to hurt everyone except for big companies, crooks and ICANN. What can you do? Go to www.icann.org/en/contact and register a complaint about the expansion of first level domains. If you use the form on the page click the button that says “New gTLDs” as the subject category. I also suggest you write to your congressmen. Finally, one last thought. ICANN makes money simply because everyone has agreed to use their domain service. There is no law saying you have to. If ICANN becomes too greedy or the Internet becomes too dangerous because of their actions expect others to step up to the plate and create a competitor to ICANN.