Rival bids to control .kiwi internet domain name - and promises money for Chch

Earlier this week, Dot Kiwi, a company backed by former InternetNZ and ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, announced plans to apply for a .Kiwi domain name (which simplistically, can be thought of as an internet address suffix. If of hokey and patriotic mind, for example, NBR could buy NBR.kiwi to supplement or replace NBR.co.nz).

Dot Kiwi has made the application under ICANN's new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) programme, which allows domain names (such as .sport or the adult site-oriented .xxx) that designate a topic or theme rather than a location (such as .co.nz or .org.nz).

(ICANN, which was set up by a US government charter but operates independently, controls worldwide administration of internet addresses. It’s the closest thing the internet has to a governing body.)

Dot Kiwi chief executive Tim Johnson said there is a "Notable lack of choice for names in the somewhat isolated New Zealand domain name market."

However, InternetNZ, which dominates the local internet address scene through its wholesale control of the .co.nz domain, isn’t taking the challenge lying down.

Well, probably not.

“InternetNZ has been considering carefully whether to build on the existing expertise in NZ Registry Services by applying for a dot 'something' but has not reached a decision,” the non-profit’s president, Frank March, told NBR. (In his day job, Mr March works as a special advisor to the Ministry of Economic Development.)

“One of the options under consideration is .kiwi and that has not yet been discounted," Mr March said.

A final decision will be made after consultation with InternetNZ's membership during February.

Out-Christchurching Dot Kiwi
Perhaps sensitive to being seen as a commercial operator moving in on the turf of the respected, non-profit InternetNZ (which uses profit generated from its fees – it collected $7.22 million last year – for education and user advocacy), Dot Kiwi has pledged to donate an unspecified percentage of its revenue and profit into a fund to help the Christchurch rebuild.

Mr March diplomatically suggested that InternetNZ could do better for the quake-hit city.

“Obviously the link to a Christchurch beneficial trust [suggested by Dot Kiwi] is attractive,” the InternetNZ president told NBR.

 “Although of course it will be some time, perhaps several years, before any cash can be expected to flow from that.”

Mr March said InternetNZ has initiated a programme to distribute $500,000 to “suitable Christchurch rebuild projects.” (Funding announcements are expected in March).

Whoever wins ICANN’s nod to control .kiwi, the new domain name is not expected to be on sale before early 2013.

It's possible .kiwi and other personalised domains will cost more than .co.nz internet addresses, which cost around $40 a year. It costs $US185,000 ($NZ232,000) to apply to ICANN and at least $25,000 a year to keep the domain maintained.

In addition to these high costs, a ten-year commitment is required, raising the total maintenance bill to around $US250,000 for a decade of hosting one of these domains.

Mr March said his organisation welcomed the advent of generic domain names.

But some businesses may cringe. The introduction of the ".xxx" domain name in the new year was followed by a rash of campaigns by registrars (domain name retailers) badgering companies to buy ".xxx" versions of their website's address to protect their intellectual property from cyber-squatters .. and of course generate some extra revenue for the registrars.

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