on the horizon as Internet body seeks radical expansion of domains

What’s in a name? .law will help identify lawyers, say applicants

Six businesses – including a law firm – are battling for control of a new .law domain that is set to become available as the body that co-ordinates Internet addresses opens up the market radically.

There is also competition for the generic top-level domains (gTLDs) .lawyer and .legal. However, nobody has as yet sought .solicitor or .barrister.

It should mean that law firms and others in the legal world will be able to change their web addresses from .com or to .law if they want.

The not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced yesterday that it had received 1,930 requests for 1,430 suffixes in its first round of applications for new gTLDs and now enters into a period when others can lodge objections. The first tranche of 500 new domains are set to go live next spring. There are currently just 21 gTLDs, such as .com, .org, .net and .biz. Country specific TLDs (such as .uk) are separate.

As well as bids for other generic domains like .media, many well-known brands have made applications for unique identifiers – it would mean, for example, that the BBC could end its web addresses with .bbc. Applications cost an unrefundable $185,000 (£119,000), with annual renewal costs of $25,000.

Those competing to be the sole registry for .law are US companies Donut Inc – which has raised more than $100m to bid for 307 gTLDs, including .lawyer and .legal as well – and Nu Dot Co (which operates the .co suffix for country specific TLDs), Dotmarker Inc from the United Arab Emirates, Gibraltar’s Silver Registry Ltd, Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd from the British Virgin Islands, and Canadian law firm Merchant Law Group, a full-service practice with 11 offices around the country.

All the applications outline how the new gTLD would help law firms and others in the law stand out more clearly online, although only Top Level Domain Holdings – which is also bidding for .lawyer – says it would restrict those who can buy the suffix to practising lawyers, while Dotmaker says it will only allow “entities within the legal industry”.

Silver Registry says in its application: “Customers are increasingly using the Internet to try and find the best legal service for their needs. However, access to the countless benefits and opportunities which the Internet offers can often be hindered when navigating the ever-expanding sea of irrelevant and sometimes malicious content which also exists. Thus, the aim of .law is to create a blank canvass for the online legal sector set within a secure environment.”

Panama company Primer Nivel is the other bidder for the .legal gTLD. It says its research identified around 190,000 domain names that contain the word ‘legal’. Its goal is to be the choice of around 45,000 websites after three years.


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