Internet becoming ‘messy and confusing’

Paris, France – A report suggests that the internet is about to change significantly, but that consumers and businesses are not at all enthusiastic about the prospect.

The future liberalisation of the internet report warns that following next year’s introduction by ICANN of new top level domain names (TLDs) could flood the web with pointless domain names and encourage cyber squatting.

The possibilities for new addresses are virtually endless and include city domains such as .berlin, .paris, .london and .nyc together with activity-specific domains such as .music, .sport or .movie.

In the poll commissioned by French domain registrar Gandi, 60 percent of respondents believe that the liberalisation of domain name extensions will change the way they use the Internet, but not for the better, fearing that the internet will become full of pointless domain names (for 65 percent of the people polled), messy and confusing (57 percent), too complex to navigate (46 percent) and ‘out of control’ (41 percent).

A surprising two thirds of businesses were unaware that this change is taking place, but those that are see an obvious branding opportunity, with three quarters stating it will be advantageous.

The report warns that ICANN proposals for how the various sub-groups of domain names extensions will be managed pose more questions than they answer. For example, the .god TLD could be bought and registered by a group of atheists or by a single faction of a religion, causing 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?

The .brand TLD opens the floodgates for anti-competitive behavior as companies snap up domain names to thwart rivals. 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, says the report.

The .sex and .xxx domains may make the red light sector of the web easier to regulate, but who is to control what content is restricted to these zones and what will appear on the wider web?

With this level of potential 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 percent would be wary of domains ending with .theirprofession. Just 15 percent think this sort of suffix would be appealing. Consumers are most suspicious of extensions linked to porn and religion. A massive 84 percent of consumers think .sex is dodgy, and two thirds think .god is suspect.

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.