The mission and purpose of the new restricted .aol gTLD is to benefit internet users by ensuring increased trust and confidence through the elimination of user confusion and assurance of brand authenticity.
The new .aol gTLD will operate as a restricted registry, in which AOL Inc. and its Affiliates (as defined in the response to Question 28) (hereafter “AOL”) can create and control domain spaces that promote its brand identity and authenticity. In this regard, the .aol will be used by AOL to provide information, services and resources to consumers in a way that promotes trust, confidence and utility. The .aol gTLD will provide an authoritative internet space for AOL to connect with its users. Second and third level domains can then be utilized for marketing purposes, with internet users assured of brand authenticity.
AOL is a leading global web services company with a network of premium and niche content sites and an extensive offering of world class tools and platforms. AOL began as Quantum Computer Services in 1985, and was subsequently renamed as America Online in 1991 and officially changed its name to AOL in 2006. AOL, a pioneer of the internet industry, launched the first instant messaging service in 1989. AOL’s business spans the internet with online and local content, innovative products and valuable services for consumers, publishers and advertisers. With one of the industry’s largest advertising networks, AOL engages consumers with online advertising services on both AOL’s owned and operated websites and third party websites. Its content sites and products allow more than 250 million visitors around the world to access its collection of journalists, artists and musicians on the web. Approximately 115 million people in US and about 250 million people worldwide interact with the AOL brands every month. AOL operates in 15 countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Israel and India and employs over 5,800 people in its offices throughout the world. Headquartered in New York, AOL is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Through innovation and creativity, AOL continuously raises the bar and sets the standard of providing high quality content over the internet. In this regard, the .aol gTLD will support AOL to achieve these standards.
Since the inception of the current domain name system, business activities conducted on the internet are constantly changing and evolving with increased complexity. The volume of commercial transactions over the internet is constantly growing and bringing benefits of simplicity and lowered transaction costs to businesses and consumers. The .aol gTLD will facilitate greater trust and assurance from internet users connecting with AOL online, further reducing susceptibility to sophisticated criminal activities over the internet (Including data breach, hacking and phishing activities), while still allowing convenient and efficient interaction.
AOL’s mission and purpose for the proposed new gTLD share ICANN’s goal of promoting public interest. AOL is committed to contributing toward achieving such initiatives in line with ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments, which includes:
- Consumer trust: the .aol gTLD registry will be operated in a centralized manner with a restrictive registration policy. Registration of domain names will only be available to AOL and its Affiliates, at this stage, which will provide added consumer trust that the .aol domain names are trustworthy. As the .aol domain names are subject to registration standards, policies and procedures under AOL’s control, this eliminates the possibility of malicious conduct within the .aol domain space;
- Competition: the proposed new gTLD is not intended to instigate competition and consumer choice at the level of registration of domain names among prospective registrants. Instead it is anticipated to contribute to ICANN’s initiatives to promote public interest through its operation focused on promoting consumer trust. Increased trust in the .aol gTLD will likely drive existing and new top level domain (TLD) registry operators to make improvements in mechanisms to improve consumer trust of their TLDs; and
- Consumer choice : the proposed new gTLD will enable user-driven improvements and innovations assisting AOL’s marketing efforts through its ability to create new second and third level domain names on demand. These names will provide the consumers with more choices for interacting with AOL. As AOL has effective control over the registration and use of domain names under the .aol domain space, this will likely contribute toward general service innovations on the internet.
Given the restricted nature of the .aol gTLD, the projected number of registration is likely to be limited. It is anticipated that a limited number of domain names will be registered in the first year. However, over the next few years, the number of domain name registrations is likely to increase as AOL develops and implements new services and marketing campaigns for the proposed .aol gTLD.
As the new .aol gTLD expands and evolves, AOL may use second level domain names in connection with its individual brands, sub channels, products and services, such as mail.aol and Stylelist.aol. In this endeavour, AOL will continue to comply with all operational, technical and policy requirements, as well as maintain consumer trust and the stability of the internet. AOL will keep ICANN reasonably informed of any material developments relating to .aol gTLD including compliance with the continued operations instrument obligations as set out in Specification 8 of the Registry Agreement.
As the new .aol gTLD expands and evolves, AOL may create relevant domain names for use including product, services or geographic names in the second or third level domain names. AOL may use geographic names at a later stage to provide localized content. In accordance with the registration policy and the proposed measures for the protection of geographic names as outlined in response to Question 22, any use of geographic names would be intended to:
- Connect internet users with relevant information as applicable to the territory; and
- Comply with required rules and regulations in the relevant territory.
At this stage, AOL does not intend to utilise Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) at the second level. However, as the use of the .aol gTLD evolves, that may change and AOL may utilize IDNs to allow internet users to engage with .aol in their native language, creating a more positive user experience and encouraging diversity.
AOL is a well-recognized global brand with its “AOL” trademark registered in over 150 countries and territories including UK, India, US and China for the following categories: Telecommunications (Class 38); Computer, scientific and legal (Class 42); Computer software (Class 9);.
AOL has over 220 existing domain names with an exact match to the applied-for .aol gTLD and the “AOL” trademark, such as aol.biz, aol.travel and aol.ca.
Recently, AOL was successful in securing registration of aol.co and aol.xxx domain names based on existing trademark and domain name registrations.
AOL believes that the .aol gTLD is unlikely to cause confusion with either a generic term or any existing TLDs. AOL trademarks are a leading global brand with significant reputation in the US and across the world in conjunction with its global web services business.