An article in this morning’s Washington Post highlights a potential issues for associations in the digital realm in the near future.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will within the next few months open the application process for the creation of new domain names.  The most common Internet domain names are “.com”, “.net”, and “.org”, but an ICANN decision in 2008 to allow the creation of generic top-level domains (gTLD) could allow an explosion of the number of “dot words” seen on the Internet.  For example, a person, company, or association could apply to own the gTLD “.architect” and have the right to sell usage or create their own line of .architect websites.

While The Washington Post article highlights the controversy over creating potentially loaded gTLDs such as .gay or .abortion, the association community is very concerned with the ICANN application process for associations to own gTLDs for their members.  Using the .architects example, an architecture association could apply for the rights to that gTLD but could lose the bidding process to an unrelated company who is hoping to sell .architect for a higher price or form their own Internet niche of architecture websites.  Even if an architecture association won the rights to the gTLD, the cost would be prohibitive to most nonprofits: the application cost is $185,000 plus an annual $25,000 for ownership.  If the bidder faces a competitive process, they would pay more for legal fees and legal representation to resolve the claim.

ASAE has submitted multiple comments to ICANN asking for a review of their application process so as to not disadvantage nonprofit applicants financially, but to date have not received a satisfactory answer.