Predictions for our unpredictable world: What might we expect this year?

The events of the 2020s so far have been entirely unpredictable

The digital landscape has transformed at a pace no one could have foreseen, presenting both new opportunities and challenges for those in the domain name sector. These are in addition to the pre-existing issues we have long grappled with – and the many tasks we had to pause during restrictions.

Here’s what our experts told us is likely to happen across the key areas for the domain name sector as we march forwards through 2022.

Could there be a date for dotBrands?

The much-anticipated second round of ICANN applications for new gTLDs remains unscheduled, but in 2022 we should see ICANN’s Operational Design Phase get underway (with a budget of $9m). This will plan out the key operational elements for the second round. If completed on schedule, ICANN should be ready to open to new gTLD applications in early-mid 2024. If anything, the lengthy gap between the first and second rounds has given those who secured dotBrands time to explore their uses and showcase their potential, tempting more to consider acquiring their own.

Recent years have seen both Google and AWS increasing their usage of their dotBrands, while more companies are recognising how valuable these unique domain names can be: they can boost trust, provide peace of mind when it comes to security and scams, and have proven to be powerful tools in marketing initiatives. This is facilitating new models and an understanding of value in a different way – it’s not about selling domains but brand reputation. This will translate into an increased interest for those without a dotBrand to secure one. The application process is a complex one though; no wonder there is impetus to start planning now. Companies want to be poised to jump as soon as ICANN gives the green light.

Restarting the engines at ICANN

Like much of the world, ICANN activity at the Board/Executive level hibernated during the pandemic year. As mentioned, Operational planning for the second round of new gTLD applications should begin this year, but equally critical for those in the community is phase 2 of the Policy Development Process (PDP) on Rights Protection Mechanisms, which will review the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Abusive domain registrations continue to be a wider issue and ICANN’s activity is supported by a strong, voluntary initiative from the registries and registrars, determined to work together to address DNS abuse such as malware or phishing. To gain traction, there needs to be an agreement on whether trademark infringement should be included in the definition of an abusive registration. Hopefully we will see movement on this issue over 2022.

The new year should see a completion of the various initiatives that are defining how domain name registration records should be made available, including the System for Standard Access/Disclosure (SSAD). This system will determine how brand owners can access registrant data for potentially abusive domains in a post-GDPR environment. Equally important will be the completion of the policy for Specific Curative Rights Protections for International Governmental Organisations (IGOs), due in August 2022. This could see IGOs protected under the UDRP, but details will remain key when negotiating with national governments and international treaty organisations.

Reviewing the portfolio

When it comes to Corporate Domain Name Management, compliance will remain front of mind in 2022, not least because international legislation and policy continues to change rapidly. Those responsible will take extra time to ensure domain-related data (such as company addresses, phone numbers, and trademark registration details) are updated to stay ahead of abrupt registry rules changes. We’ve seen it recently in Qatar and Australia, as well as an auditing process in China; these incidents only persuade domain managers to be more vigilant to prepare for more in the coming year.

Money will also move front of mind due to the costs associated with the pandemic, plus the economic fall-out now being experienced. All businesses are facing a squeeze resulting in a careful review of budgets. We will likely see an increased scrutiny of the cost of a domain portfolio. We can expect companies to start removing unnecessary defensive domains while also increasing their use of tools such as Com Laude Watch to protect IP and keep an eye on threats to trademarks, avoiding unnecessary costs. Cybercrime has proliferated during the pandemic and with belts tightening, protecting trademarks and assets is only becoming more critical.

Emerging into 2022

After a turbulent and anxious start to the 2020s, things can only get better. We will see ICANN start to move and the industry shift, while in-house it’s wise to double down on security and review your portfolios carefully to ensure you are in the best possible position to ride out another year in this post-Covid world.

About the Author

Nick Wood, Executive Chairman and co-founder of Com Laude, and Hayath Hussein, Global Operations Director. Com Laude provides domain name portfolio management services and online brand protection for brand owners. We are trusted by business and legal professionals who value the strategic advice and focus on security and cost-effective solutions we provide. We treat domains as valuable internet assets to be nurtured throughout their lifecycle from registration to renewal.

Featured image: ©Floaria