Gandi.net

June 09, 2009 13:59 ET

A Whole New World of Internet Landscapes Are About to Become Available-but Are Users Ready?

Consumer feedback suggests that the future Internet will be 'messy and confusing', 'too complex' and 'out of control'; 60% of consumers believe liberalisation will change the way they use the Internet, but not for the better

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - June 9, 2009) -

Editors Note: There is one photo and one video associated with this Press Release.

A new report entitled "The future liberalisation of the internet", carried out by The Future Laboratory on behalf of domain name registrar Gandi.net, has found that the geography of the internet is about to change significantly, but that consumers and businesses are not enthusiastic about the prospect.

From next year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international body that oversees the structure of the Internet, will liberalise the market for domain name extensions - the .com or .uk part of a web address. This means that the possibilities for new addresses are virtually endless and include city domains such as .berlin, .paris, .london and .nyc and activity-specific domains such as .music, .sport or .movie.

The majority of consumers polled (60%) agree that the liberalisation of domain name extensions will change the way they use the Internet, but not for the better. The sceptical amongst them believe that the Internet will become full of pointless domain names (for 65% of the people polled), messy and confusing (57%), too complex to navigate (46%) and out of control (41%).

From a business perspective, a shocking two thirds of businesses were unaware that this change is taking place. But for those that were aware, they see an obvious branding opportunity. Of those businesses surveyed, a massive 81% stated that liberalisation will be innovative, three quarters stating it will be advantageous, and two thirds exciting when launching a campaign online.

When looking at the wider potential of liberalisation of the Internet, the issue of control throws up several areas of concern. ICANN has already outlined its proposals for how the various sub-groups of domain names extensions will be managed, but in some cases these proposals throw up more questions than they answer. For example the following issues could arise:

- .God: What if this domain were to be bought and registered by a group of atheists? Or by a single faction of a religion? This would cause uproar on a global scale. ICANN has had to instigate a process whereby domains relating to morality will need to be decided upon and administered by a committee. But who should sit on that committee?

- .London: There are already plans underway that any organisation wishing to manage or be part of a new geography top level domain name should reside or have a presence in the chosen geography. This is the same for the current plans around .paris and .nyc

- .Brand: The ultimate anti-competitive behaviour would be for a company to buy-up its competitors brand name TLD. Whilst trademark laws and planned ICANN regulations make this unlikely to happen, the complications around how to administer domains amongst the millions of global brands and trademarks cannot be ignored

- .GP: There is a great industrial opportunity around specific business sectors and groups, but this would require industry organisations taking a more active role in leading the way and setting a standard which their members can then sign-up to and follow

- .Sex / .Xxx: There is an argument that creating the Internet equivalent of a red light zone will make the regulation and management of Internet pornography and adult rated content easier to manage. On the other hand, it may be hard to control and enforce exactly what stays in the zone vs what is let out

With this level of confusion it may not be surprising that consumers have managed to muster little enthusiasm for any new top-level domains. A quarter of people are ambivalent about the prospect of a .music suffix and 28% would be wary of domains ending with .theirprofession. Just 15% think this sort of suffix would be appealing. Consumers are most suspicious of extensions linked to porn and religion. A massive 84% of consumers think .sex is dodgy, and two thirds think .god is suspect.

One prospect that does interest consumers, however, is the opportunity that new suffixes present for building communities online. Of the consumers surveyed, 29% think the Internet will become localised, allowing cities and towns to create virtual spaces that promote the local area and that connect communities.

"It may sound scary but this is an exciting change," says Wendy White from Gandi. "There will be new opportunities for consumers and businesses with the increased choice of domain names. But if liberalisation is to bring the benefits that it promises, it needs to be handled carefully. There is a danger that squatters will take over the virtual high street and as soon as the criminals move in, you'll see the overall web experience decline."

She continued: "As an 'ethical' registrar we really believe all players in the domain space need to take a longer term, mature view of how they behave. This includes registrars and registries whose commercial interests sometimes conflict with the goal of keeping the domain space from being polluted, which in turn blights the consumer experience. We wanted to get the industry and general public debating on what the key challenges facing the industry are, and how these can be addressed in the coming months."

To continue the discussion, log onto www.gandibar.net where you can find the Gandi discussion forum, a video discussing the report, a one-page factsheet on the report's findings, and a guide for small businesses on how to address the changes in the internet.

ABOUT THE REPORT:

The 'Future Liberalisation of the Internet' report was commissioned by Gandi in partnership with the Future Laboratory. The research included a quantitative survey of 1,000 average Britons, and a quantitative survey of 50 e-commerce managers from large high street businesses and 50 e-commerce managers from SMEs. A series of in-depth senior industry executive interviews were then completed to critically analyse the survey findings.

ABOUT GANDI:

Created in 1999 and purchased in 2005 by an experienced executive team, Gandi provides the tools and services to support customers to build and protect their online presence whether business, brand or personal project. Gandi manages more than 800,000 domain names for clients in 198 countries around the world and is one of the largest ICANN accredited registrars in Europe. Gandi has also pioneered an ultra-flexible virtualised hosting service, and Gandi SiteMaker, DIY website building software. Today, Gandi leads good practice in the industry, always putting the customers' needs first, with a commitment to high quality, innovative products. Our clients range from individuals and small companies, to public institutions (EU/ECB) and large multinational corporations. Many have put confidence in us, and it's something we are deeply proud of.

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