.LOL Dispute Could be no Laughing Matter

A dot-com speculator looks set to battle Google for the rights to operate an unusual website address domain: .lol

Frank Schilling of Uniregistry and Google have both confirmed they’ve applied for the top level domain as part of a process that will eventually mean virtually infinite domains rather than the current system of country codes and a few categories such as .com and .org.

Internet regulatory ICANN will tomorrow reveal the full details of those who’ve stumped up $185,000 a time to apply for a new domain. It’s already revealed that there are just under 2,000 applications in total (well above initial expectations) but not how many applicants there are, or which domains have multiple applications.

When that happens, it’s not a case of first-come, first-served. Instead, only those companies that have an indisputable global trademark will automatically get the domain. For example, even if somebody else has taken a punt on applying for Google (which is unlikely), it’s almost certain the search giant will be deemed the only valid applicant.

Nothing will happen quickly. There’ll be a sixty day window for challenges on trademark grounds, including by rights holders who haven’t applied for the domain in question. After that, there’ll be a review period of at least nine months during which ICANN double-checks that applicants are financially and legally sound.

This review period also gives rival applicants time to make a deal for one or more to withdraw their bid. If there are still multiple applications after the review, they’ll take part in an auction.

It’s the generic terms where this is the most likely outcome, with domains such as music and game expected to be among the most hotly contested. There could be some fascinating brinksmanship as some applicants may reason it’s cheaper to pay off a rival rather than risk the cost rocketing in an auction.

The winners will pay registration fees of at least $25,000 a year, with a minimum 10-year term. Of course, they might easily be able to make that back from selling subdomains.

Those applicants who’ve already gone public include a range of businesses (Google wants .home as well as .lol, .youtube and .google) looking to use the names themselves, and existing and new domain registration firms such as GoDaddy looking to sell individual addresses.