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.brand TLD project: what kind of team do you need?

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Creating a .brand TLD – a unifying, cross-cutting and long-term project (part 1)

A .brand TLD project can’t be improvised in the space of a few weeks, but nor can it be developed in isolation in a single division. Right from the outset it’s important to make sure of the active participation of a number of actors, both within the business and outside it. It’s a cross-cutting undertaking by its very nature, since it requires the collaboration of several key competences.

First, the support of General Management. Even though General Management isn’t involved in carrying out the project itself, the future .brand TLD relies heavily at least on its “political” if not indeed direct support. This need arises from the cross-cutting nature already referred to, which makes the .brand TLD a real business-wide project. General Management is indispensable in uniting the people involved by supporting the .brand TLD as part of a long-term vision.

This vision may originate in another division, such as Strategy or Communication, which has studied the use of the .brand TLD and how it will fit in with the business’ digital strategy. In 2012, numerous applications for .brand TLDs were submitted to ICANN without having gone through this stage: many of them were successful in the sense that the TLDs applied for were duly delegated. But in the absence of a vision, they remained unused, and remain so to this day.

The Communication or Marketing Division (liaising with the Digital Communication team) will therefore have a crucial role to play in implementing the project, being one of the main future users. All the business’s websites and email addresses must be migrated to the TLD, allowing the Internet addresses to be standardised and, in due course, create a genuine “digital brand territory”. But this division will not be alone. Indeed, if we think of the idea of “digital governance” and its implications in terms of policies and communication, we cannot sidestep the technical and legal issues involved.

Technical first of all, because putting the future TLD in place will have a significant impact – if it is properly exploited – on the business’s Internet architecture and its information system. So the CIO is a major actor in this change, even if the technical administration of the .brand TLD is delegated to a specialised back-end registry operator such as Afnic. Often reporting to the CIO, the CISO must be given a key role, which must not be neglected.

Lastly the Legal Division too is essential, if only because the business will have to give some undertakings – contractual ones – in order to obtain its TLD. These contracts will govern its legal relations with ICANN (which delegates the TLDs), with any partners or service providers such as the back-end registry operator and a registrar, and possibly with an advisory structure to accompany it throughout the creation process.

How all these stakeholders – internal and external – can be coordinated so as to bring the project to a successful conclusion will be the subject of the second part of our study.