PHOTO: Tony Nyberg
More than 1,000 new top-level domains are set to go live in the next year or so – and a team of New Zealanders at the forefront of this digital revolution are giving Kiwis something to think about.
Cantabrian Tim Johnson came up with the idea for a new domain, .kiwi, after the Christchurch earthquakes. He and some expat Kiwis – then all based in Canada – got together to fundraise for earthquake recovery and he realised there was a gap for a domain that offered a more personal than geographical identifier. And so, .kiwi, an alternative to .nz, was born.
Headed by Johnson, an information technology specialist, the Dot Kiwi Ltd (Dot Kiwi) team includes a number of high-profile New Zealanders on its board of directors, including Peter Dengate Thrush, former chairman of both Internet New Zealand and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and Sir John Hansen, a past judge of the New Zealand High Court. Each member shares Johnson’s vision of ‘New Zealand Inc’, which he says is epitomised by a .kiwi domain.
In response to demand from the Internet Protocol community for more unique options, ICANN opened applications for new generic top-level domain (gTLD) ideas in 2012, which was Johnson’s chance to get the ball rolling, but taking .kiwi from concept to conclusion wasn’t short of challenges. Dot Kiwi’s application for the .kiwi domain was one of more than 1,900 applications to ICANN and consisted of paying a non- refundable US$185,000 (NZ$233,000) fee and putting together a 500-page response to ICANN’s 50 application questions.
This vast expansion of gTLDs is going to be one of the biggest and most dramatic changes in internet history. Around 1,300 new generic domain names will be released, enabling companies and individuals to register choices reflecting geography (.nyc, .africa), sports (.sport, .bike) or brand names (.google, .nike), for example. These names will also become available in Chinese, Arabic, Russian and other non-English scripts.
Not surprisingly, the process requires careful handling and is being strictly regulated by ICANN to ensure the new registries comply with rules, protect trade mark rights and don’t break the internet explains Johnson.
“We passed all the regulatory tests and now Dot Kiwi is able to start taking reservations for .kiwi domains,” he says.
So what gap will .kiwi fulfil? Johnson says the big difference for .kiwi is that it’s got a personality. “It’s a very different offering from other gTLDs. Essentially, this is a game changer for New Zealand businesses that have been forced into a .nz purely by default. We think the number of domain names associated with New Zealand will increase dramatically as a result.”
At this stage there is no other gTLD that represents culture in the way that a .kiwi does and as .kiwi is leading the world as one of the first new gTLDs to launch to market, it will be watched with interest. “There is no .yank, .pom or .aussie yet, so the world will be looking to see how .kiwi goes,” Johnson says.
“The .kiwi domain offers New Zealand organisations and individuals greater choice, branding creativity and the opportunity to ‘embrace their ‘Kiwiness’, differentiating themselves from competitors and a new way to proclaim their identity online.”
The launch of .kiwi provides a blank canvas and an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to build a business around a good domain name and is sure to spark some novel new ideas.
“Hotels.com is an example of a business that has been successful due to the brilliant simplicity and memorability of its domain name,” says Johnson, who feels there is also a distinct possibility of businesses building apps off a domain name.
While the .kiwi domain name will not become a usable reality until later this year, Johnson suggests that those looking to reserve a domain for a new business, or to ensure that their existing brand is appropriately safeguarded, should check the various options available at www.dot-kiwi.com now.
Get in early to safeguard your intellectual property
Dot Kiwi has created a simple process for protecting trade marks online. By visiting the Dot Kiwi website, trade mark holders can register to protect their intellectual property across all the new gTLDs coming online and apply for their trade mark protected .kiwi domains at the same time.
Registration requires some basic trade mark information (publically available at www.iponz.govt.nz), as well as evidence that your trade mark is being used in the marketplace. To gain early access to your trade mark-protected domain names, the Trademark Clearinghouse will give you an electronic file to submit applications.