If it Ain’t Broke…

Early this week, ICANN announced that a public comment period will be opening for feedback on a proposed amendment to the .MOBI TLD agreement. .MOBI became available for public registration in 2006, and was designated for websites that were compatible with mobile devices. Initially all one- and two-character domain root terms (e.g. A.mobi, 1.mobi, AB.mobi, etc.) were reserved at the second level.

Unfortunately for .MOBI, data networks, smartphones and other mobile devices have improved by leaps and bounds since 2006, and now users can simply navigate to the .COM site from a handheld device and expect a decent experience. I actually think the critical mobi-moment arrived in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced and it had a “.COM” button, not a “.MOBI” button. Honestly, .MOBI was obsolete shortly after it was introduced.

So now mTLD Top Level Domain, Ltd., the registry that operates .MOBI, is proposing an amendment that will loosen the restrictions around the TLD and permit more registrations. Specifically, the amendment proposes that one- and two-character .MOBI domains be allocated to registrars for public registration. This signals mTLD’s grabbing for a lifeline as other “test bed” new gTLDs have done.

So far, we’ve seen .TRAVEL, .NAME and .JOBS, among others, relax their original regulations in an effort to drum up revenue. These, along with .MOBI, are “newer” TLDs that ICANN approved between 2000 and 2004. (The original eight TLDs, .COM, .EDU, .GOV, .INT, .MIL, .NET, .ORG and .ARPA, all predate ICANN.) Many of the newer TLDs were specified for particular communities or purposes and carried restrictions on what domain names could be registered in them. And now, years later, the registries that run many of these newer TLDs are struggling to maintain registration rates.

While one can argue whether or not it’s appropriate for these registries to change their agreements in order to survive and earn additional revenue, the real question is, if these new TLDs are struggling, why is ICANN so eager to introduce even more generic TLDs into the marketplace? It seems the only thing that’s new in ICANN’s new TLD initiative is the notion of brands securing branded TLDs and using them for specific purposes that exclude selling second-level domains to registrants – it’s evident that generic TLDs have failed in the past and very well may continue to fail since registrants don’t see their value.

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