Jun. 24, 2011 - Opportunity Knocks
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On June 20, 2011, ICANN (the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Non-Governmental Organization that coordinates unique web identifiers/addresses across the World Wide Web) announced that it had approved a plan to increase the number of domain endings which can be used by websites as unique identifiers. At the time ICANN made its announcement, there were 22 identifiers and about 200 country codes, which are known as ‘top level domains’. A few are familiar to us: .com, .gov, .org, .edu and so on. These endings are known as Top Level Domains (TLDs).
The ICANN decision is huge, and will change the way the internet operates. The internet will go from 22 major web address categories to an infinite number. Imagine if every community in the entire world could have a zip code! That’s what the ICANN decision will mean for the internet.
The Chairman of ICANN put it best “Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind”.
Pretty lofty stuff, eh? What it means that every country in the world, every language, and every brand name or product category will be able to apply for a top level domain. A soft drink company will be able to have .pepsi, for instance—and of course there will be a .apple and a .microsoft.
However, these TLDs will be regulated: the application process is thorough and rigorous, and the cash investment is steep--$100,000 or more to apply, and a $25,000 annual fee to maintain the domain rights. Clearly the corner grocery won’t be making a top level domain investment on its own. The new TLDs will be limited largely to large corporations and trade associations.
In addition, ICANN has stated that besides offering these new TLD's, it will also be in charge of enforcing trademark and cybersquatting issues to ensure that a business or individual doesn't take ownership of a rightful entity's name.
So why is there a gleam of opportunity in my eye? As a part of the Realtor organization for over 30 years, I’m familiar with our issues of brand recognition. The term “MLS” is the most troublesome—it’s never been registered or legally defined, and so it’s frequently misappropriated: “ByOwnerMLS.com” is a good example. “No fair,” Realtors cry. “We pay MLS fees, and invest in accuracy and credibility. Why can someone else use our name?”
The recent ICANN decision gives organized real estate the opportunity to solidify its brand. If a .mls top level domain is available ONLY to recognized MLS organizations, and if organized real estate invests in obtaining and enforcing the appropriate use of the MLS tld, the real estate profession could go a long way toward consumer awareness and brand recognition. Let’s face it: buyers begin their search on the internet. They want reliable data which is accurate and timely. In this scenario, a visit to a .mls site will assure consumers and inspire their confidence. Further, a top level domain address like .mls is very likely to improve search engine ratings of those organizations which can use it.
With all this in mind, two years ago a group of MLSs from around the US formed an organization to obtain the .mls top level domain. They pooled money, hired professional organizational management and recognized legal advisors, and began to solicit members and raise funds. You can read the story of their progress on their website, and you can check there to see if your MLS (and your MLS vendor) is supporting this effort.
The slogan of the MLS Domains Association is “Take Back MLS!” Says the website, “Consumers have come to understand that those three letters represent the gold standard for accurate, up-to-date property information.” Real estate needs to control its brand and its reputation, and the June 20 decision by ICANN give us an unprecedented opportunity to do just that!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Opportunity Knocks : Off Stage