Industry coalition objects to Google's domain names applications

FairSearch.org, which is backed by Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle, said Google could get a competitive advantage from generic industry terms

An industry coalition with backing from Microsoft, Nokia and Oracle has objected to Google's application for certain top-level domain strings.

FairSearch.org said it has filed objections with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) over Google's applications for generic top-level domain (gTLD) strings including ".search," ".fly" and ".map."

By accepting Google's application, ICANN will enable the search giant to gain an unfair competitive advantage against other members of the community "through the improper grant of a perpetual monopoly of generic industry terms to a single company."

Google, which controls over 79 percent of search queries in the U.S. and over 90 percent market share in Europe, doesn't need more help against its competitors by giving it control over who gets access to new domain names, FairSearch said on Tuesday.

The industry coalition lobbies policy makers following what it describes as "growing evidence that Google is abusing its search monopoly to thwart competition."

ICANN's policy to open generic domain names to private parties has already attracted criticism from other fronts.

Publishing industry groups and bookseller Barnes & Noble have, for example, objected to Amazon.com's application for top-level domain strings, including for ".book" and ".read."

In its application for the ".book" gTLD, Amazon wrote that ".BOOK will be a single entity registry, with all domains registered to Amazon for use in pursuit of Amazon's business goals." There will be no resellers and market in ".book" domains, and Amazon will strictly control the use of ".book" domains, it added.

Placing generic domains in private hands is anticompetitive, and will allow already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power, Scott Turow, president of Authors Guild in New York, wrote in a letter to ICANN.

Google has applied for a large number of gTLDs including some related to its existing brands.

Specific new strings do not have inherent value from which applicants can derive competitive advantage, as Internet users tend to use the top­level domain names they are already comfortable with, particularly ".com," Google wrote in a letter to ICANN earlier this month. A new gTLD operator will need to make significant investments to raise awareness of the TLD, and persuade users to make use of the new domains, it added.

Google has, however, said in the letter that it has identified four of its current single registrant applications that it will revise: ".app," ".blog," ".cloud" and ".search," as these have been identified by governments and others in the community as being potentially valuable and useful to the entire industry.

"We also believe that for each of these terms we can create a strong set of user experiences and expectations without restricting the string to use with Google products," it added, leading to speculation that the company may agree to open up these four domains to non-Google products.

"It's possible that Google could access the data that flows over any other website who asks to register under a gTLD owned by Google, giving it even greater advantage over all other companies on the Internet," FairSearch said. Google did not immediately comment on FairSearch's objections before ICANN.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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