Politics and government abound when your headquarters are located in Washington, DC. The White House is a relatively short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from our office in Georgetown, and the Capitol is not much further than that. There are even rumors that the CIA used to have a secret drop-off spot just a block from our office.
But despite the fact that we come just short of having a constant parade of donkeys and elephants right outside our window, we tend to stay out of the political side of things and focus mostly on the private sector here at FairWinds. But every once in a while, Capitol Hill finds its way into the work we do, like when we investigated the prevalence of identity squatting among members of Congress. Identity squatting is a lot like cybersquatting, except instead of brand names, third parties register domains containing the names of prominent individuals (in this case, politicians) in bad faith or with the intent to profit off the fame of those individuals.
More recently, as we were combing through the list of new gTLD applications, we notice something that raised our political eyebrows: applications for .DEMOCRAT, .REPUBLICAN, .GOP and…that’s it. No .DNC, not .DEMS, nothing to complement the application for .GOP. The Democratic Party put forth no “see” to the Republicans’ “saw.” What happened there?
First off, the applications for .REPUBLICAN and .DEMOCRAT were both submitted by United TLD Holdco Ltd, an entrepreneurial domain company based in the Cayman Islands that applied for 26 gTLDs, mostly for generic terms like .GREEN, .BAR, .ACTOR and, our personal favorite, .NINJA. So neither of these partisan gTLD applications has its roots in an established political organization.
On the other hand, .GOP is a different story entirely. Short for “Grand Old Party,” the common nickname for the Republican Party here in the U.S., we expected to find that the application had been submitted by the Republican National Committee, which happens to own and operate GOP.com. That’s why we found it so curious that there was no complementary Democratic application. But in reality, the .GOP application came from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), a state-based coalition, not the national establishment. What’s also interesting is how open and forthcoming the RSLC has been about its plans for .GOP. The RSLC’s website includes an entire FAQ page devoted to .GOP, for example. And in terms of how the group plans to use the gTLD, the site says the following:
“As a non-profit and the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the nation, the RSLC will responsibly manage the .GOP domain to: 1) ensure that organizations representing the domain, and hence the party, are of the highest caliber and 2) to use any funds generated through such management to elect Republican officeholders across the country.”
The RSLC also states that .GOP will provide credibility and authenticity to Republican websites and email addresses. Considering how difficult it can be for many politicians to secure their names as .COM domains for campaign websites, .GOP could offer an easy-to-remember, party-affirming alternative for candidates and elected officials. And if the RSLC employs a proper vetting process to truly “ensure that organizations representing the domain, and hence the party, are of the highest caliber,” then this new gTLD could make significant strides in alleviating the identity squatting problem many politicians face.
While the new gTLD won’t be ready for this year’s election, we could start to see .GOP domains in use by the mid-term elections in 2014.