Barnes & Noble seeks to shut the book on Amazon’s domain expansion
March 11, 2013 04:17 PM
Amazon.com Inc. began its march to e-commerce dominance by selling books online, and now it wants to own the web domain .book. Rivals argue that would give the leading online retailer too big an advantage in an arena in which it is already dominant.
Book seller Barnes & Noble Inc. has filed an objection to Amazon’s application to purchase the .book domain and several related Internet top-level domain names, including .read and .author. In a letter filed March 1 with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the retailer says that Amazon would have an unfair advantage over competing book sellers if it is allowed to own those domain names and prevent other companies—including booksellers—from using them.
BarnesandNoble.com Inc. is No. 32 in the Internet Retailer Top 500. Amazon is No. 1.
ICANN coordinates the names and numbers that make up Internet addresses around the world, including the 22 top-level domains, such as .com, .edu and .gov, and the 250 country-specific web address endings, such as .uk. ICANN began accepting applications last year for new top-level domains and is now reviewing the first round of applications. Each applicant paid $185,000 per domain to file paperwork requesting them. Through the next several months the applications are open for public comments and objections, which an ICANN panel will consider in determining whether to grant the requests.
ICANN reported in June that Amazon had applied for 76 new domains, including .amazon, .music and .cloud. The organization also noted that Google Inc. had applied for 101 domains, including .android, .youtube, .dad, and, like Amazon, .music.
If ICANN grants Amazon ownership of .book, .read or .author, any other bookseller or publisher would need the retailer’s approval to use those domains in their own web addresses, such as in InternetRetailer.book, Barnes & Noble says. “Amazon will be positioned to gain unfair advantage in direct navigation and online search, will become associated with the very genus of books and will likely control the generic [book domains] in perpetuity, as the registry agreements permit unlimited automatic renewal in 10-year terms,” Barnes & Noble writes in its objection.
It concludes the letter by urging ICANN to either deny Amazon’s application for the book domains or to require that it guarantee competitors free and open access to use those domains.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Barnes & Noble is not alone in filing objections to Amazon’s application for .book, .read and .author. Both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have also filed objections. “Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power,” says bestselling author Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. “The potential for abuse seems unlimited.”
The Authors Guild also objected to Google’s application for ownership of .blog.
Google responded to those objections by posting an eight-page letter in ICANN’s public comments forum. In it, the company says it intends to use the .blog domain name to automatically link blogs hosted on its Blogger platform to that domain, which it says is more user-friendly than the current two-part Blogger domain, blogspot.com. That would guarantee that .blog addresses would take Internet users to web sites containing blogs, the company says.
Similarly, Google says, Internet users would expect a .map address to link to a web site containing some type of map, for example, and so on for other domain names. With that logic, Google argues that using new domain names to organize the Internet will allow for a better online user experience, it says.
The company also notes in the letter that it will rank new domains in search results as it typically does, based on the relevance of web pages, and it doesn’t expect its search engine would give them any preference over sites with .com addresses.