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What's In A ".music" Domain?

Every denizen of the Internet is well aware of ubiquitous domains like .com, .org, and .net. These are unrestricted generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, acting as a general organization system, by content, for every site on the Internet. Outside of these domains there are also a number of more specialized set of domains. These sponsored top level domains, or sTLDs”with extensions like .travel, .asia, .cat (not about pictures of cats), and yes, .xxx”are assigned by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) through their subsidiary, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Only certain cites can apply for and receive these requested domains. For example, you can’t have a social network with the .asia domain unless the website is catering directly to an Asian audience. The question is why should this matter to you?

Occasionally, there will be calls to develop and provide new domains. Arguments can be made that the lack of usable domains across the net can stifle web creation. More domains should, conceivably, be a boon to websites looking to capitalize and appeal to a specific, niche audience.

Recently, the IANA has been mulling over the idea of releasing a new set of domains. During a four month period, various organizations could apply for a TLD at the low, low price of $185,000 per domain application. In late June, the IANA released a complete list of the proposed domain names along with the associated companies that are trying to get a hold of them. The list revealed, more than anything else, the companies that are trying to plant a digital flag in uncharted Internet territory.

A quick scan of the list will bring up a handful of names over and over again. It’s “a fairly motely crew,” as evolver.fm describes it. A mix of recognizable names (Amazon), some massive online players operating under another name (Charleston Road Registry is really Google), and a couple of young upstart companies looking to get in on the action (Donuts, Inc.) all have dozens, if not hundreds, of applications for domains. The variety of new domains is all over the map too. Some of the more reasonable suggestions like .wine and .tickets would probably serve the purpose intended by the ICANN, to allow websites to better target consumers. On the other hand, who would ever want to type out .photography at the end of a URL?

Among the people staking claims to the internet, it looks like there are battles brewing over a few choice domains, including .music.  Forty percent of all IANA applications were for the same domains and .music is no exception. Eight different groups are trying to lay claim to the proposed domain, a mix of heavy hitters and special interests. First up are probably the two most recognizable names in web business, Amazon and Google. Both have been angling for a number of high profile domains and there’s speculation that both companies could be positioning themselves as potential online artist/music destination hubs. Donuts, Inc., a relatively unknown company also vying for the .music domain, has submitted applications for over three hundred domains in what looks a bid to claim a big portion of the Internet that doesn’t exist yet.

The two remaining .music applicants of note are Far Further and dotMusic. On paper, it would seem that both groups are the same. Far Further boasts of an deep domestic and international backing. So does dotMusic. DotMusic claims to put the interest of the artist first. As does Far Further. In fact, the only surface difference between the two groups is that Far Further definitely had a better team of web designers creating their site.

However, upon further investigation, there are some distinct differences between the two groups. Far Further is backed by a number of big-name trade groups that most musicians are familiar with, including ASCAP, BMI, SoundExchange, and the RIAA. Their executive board also reflects their industry clout, reading like a who’s who of music business moguls. The organization has received some criticism for their potential acceptance and registration policies.

 

The leadership team of dotMusic, on the other hand, consists primarily of Constantine Roussos and Tina Dam. Roussos notably came up with the idea for a .music domain back in 2001 as part of a business plan drafted during his time as in USC’s entrepreneurship program. DotMusic also boasts the backing of “over 70 government culture agencies and art councils,” as well as a number of notable online music destinations and companies. Dam worked at ICANN in the early aughts as a TLD registration liaison.

Full disclosure: OurStage, along with other music web entites such as CD Baby, Tunecore, and many more, is affiliated with dotMusic. The full list of dotMusic supporters and affiliates can be found here.

But it’s still unclear who is going to get control over the .music domain. Given ICANN’s rigorous application guidelines and specifications there’s a chance that no one will get it. All applications for gTLDs need to be on behalf of a community and it’s unclear if any of the applicants are able to effectively demonstrate their community representation. The full application guidelines can be found here, but it’s a long slog of a read. Those same application guidelines also provide plenty of ways for objecting parties to dispute any application.

So what does this mean for the music consumer? For the musician? There’s a good chance that the creation of a .music domain won’t have much impact on anything. It will be important for bigger name artists to try to poach up a .music domain, just to keep their web and media presences in order and on lock. Most smaller artists will probably be fine just sticking with their .com addresses, especially if they have to go through an intensive registration process. As long as young, independent artists ” the actors in the music business that are really the engines of innovation ” aren’t choked out of the web, it doesn’t look like .music will kill regular old music any time soon.

 

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