Tom Barrett is the chairman of surroundan ICANN accredited domain name registrar.
More and more new domain name extensions are emerging to meet the demands of blockchains. As I see it (as the founder of an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar), registering an alternative root domain extension on the blockchain can be faster, cheaper, and infinitely more scalable for trademark owners and businesses than following the traditional new extension on the blockchain. top level model created and maintained by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
So, Is Web3 Making ICANN Outdated?
Web3 will not make ICANN obsolete. But Web3 is also not regulated by ICANN. ICANN’s remit is limited to the Web2 DNS and does not extend to blockchain technologies. Both Web2 and Web3 support the concept of domain names as more user-friendly identifiers than longer alphanumeric strings. But domain names can be used in each for different purposes.
Any company planning a presence in the metaverse will likely need a web3 address. So it might not be a matter of either/or Web2 versus Web3. Rather, it is “both” and an exercise in timing.
Web3 has shown that it needs domain names to provide easy-to-use digital wallets and digital identities. More than 8 million Web3 domains are already registered on blockchains, including: Ethereum† polygon and Handshake†
The ICANN model does not scale or meet the domain name needs of today’s blockchains. ICANN has not accepted any new applications since 2012 and is not expected to open another round until 2025 or later. In addition, ICANN has decided to limit growth to only 1,000 new extensions per year in all possible top-level domain name (TLD) categories, including generic, geographic, community, restricted, international domain names that use non-ASCII characters (IDNs) and dotBrands†
For example, in 2022, the only option available for a new top-level domain is a blockchain-based domain extension of a blockchain such as Handshake, Butterfly or Decentraweb. There are also subdomains available with extensions such as .eth, .crypto, etc. But the ultimate game here are top-level corporate domains known as dotBrands.
An opportunity presents itself
Big brands like Microsoft, McDonald’s, Epic Games and others, file new trademark applications in record numbers related to NFTs and metaverses because they see the potential of blockchain and the many metaverses it can spawn.
Smart influencers, creators and organizations, including small businesses, can show they are “sensing” it by securing their brand as a standalone blockchain TLD that can be ported across multiple blockchains and metaverses. Using an outdated Web2 domain name with .com on Web3 can have the “disabled” equivalent of a company still using a Hotmail or AOL email address.
New Web3 browsers appear, which make navigating Web3 domains easy.
The traditional web has almost 30 years since the introduction of the first popular web browser to develop its ecosystem. So Web3’s ecosystem has some catching up to do. Do you remember the many different internet browsers and search engines that have come and gone? Mosaic, Netscape, WebCrawler, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, just to name a few. Business follows consumers and consumers want easy, simple and secure access. Inevitably, that means some options fall by the wayside, while others are gaining in popularity. Avoid simply replacing your .com brand address with a similar Web3 brand address. An easy way right now is to register with a third party domain extension such as .eth, .dot or .sol. But going this route will associate your brand with those extensions, which may not be consistent with your brand’s values and could go the way of the now-defunct Mosaic or Ask Jeeves. Similar names may crop up on other blockchains, leading to confusion among customers.
You can now determine your Web3 destination by securing your own top-level Web3 domain extension. Using your own TLD is a great way to reduce fraud and phishingalso.
Applying for an ICANN domain extension such as .amazon or .IBM comes with a fee of $185,000, which as a benchmark is equivalent to Trump’s application fee exclusive country clubs† This is what 1,200 companies paid in 2012 when ICANN last accepted new members.
The top brands do even better, as the top 100,000 websites are temporarily reserved and can be claimed for free by the Web2 website owners†
Once you buy your blockchain domain, you own it until you decide to retire or sell it. There are no ICANN renewal fees or policies to follow that may not suit your business needs. But there are some drawbacks that have yet to be addressed.
This is where it gets particularly interesting.
Since blockchain domains are powered by the same technology that makes Bitcoin and Ethereum so secure, they are believed to be virtually hack-resistant and nearly impossible to steal. Likewise, decentralization makes it more difficult to track down individual owners or shut down a server if it has been linked to criminal activity, leaving trademark owners with no opportunity to take a takedown or take action to stop infringement.
Brands have become accustomed to the highly regulated structure and remedies that ICANN provides: ICANN enforces a unitary root so that there is only one .com, one .ibm, and so on. However, such an arrangement does not yet exist for Web3. Domains are managed outside the scope of ICANN. So there could be duplicate extensions of the same string like .crypto and .wallet or even your trademark.
The marketplace will undergo some confusion until it decides which version(s) will dominate.
What is the answer?
For now, perhaps the smartest approach is to trade now to keep your options open.
It will be several years before laws and regulations will bring order to the chaos of what blockchain is. It will probably eventually happen, but companies can’t afford to be complacent about establishing their Web3 presence.
ICANN is not going away. But I also don’t believe it will become the regulator for Web3. Registering a top-level blockchain domain extension will now give you a web3 address compatible with the blockchain. It also offers an affordable TLD that can also be backward compatible with Web2, especially in case ICANN doesn’t launch a new round of TLDs or your ICANN application is unsuccessful or delayed due to a lawsuit.
For now, registering a top-level blockchain domain extension will secure your reputation as a pioneer in the brave new Web3 world.