How would you like to buy "a.com" or "q.info"? Well, according to dozens of media reports this week you'll be able to do exactly that when the board of Internet overseeing organisation ICANN approves their release on Sunday.
The only problem is, no one seems to have told ICANN.
According to an Associated Press story, that quoted ICANN business operations head Kurt Pritz, ICANN will discuss releasing one-letter domains to the market at the end of its conference in Vancouver this week. The story has been picked up and repeated across the globe.
But the issue is not on the Board's agenda and several people from ICANN hadn't even heard about the plan until the press reports started appearing. Ironically, in a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, ICANN has now been pushed into admitting that yes, actually, there is now no real reason why single-letter domains shouldn't be sold (there were technical issues in the past).
So where did the made-up story stem from? Overstock.com.
Overstock.com has hired a stall at the ICANN conference venue in Vancouver on which it has placed dozens of free baseball caps in red and white featuring the simple letter "O" on the front. They are also telling anyone that will listen that they want "o.com".
In a superb piece of PR work, they have somehow turned that wish into pseudo-fact by getting enough media to discuss the issue that now it seems a practical reality.
The big issue problem however is over how ICANN would release these domains to the market. There would an enormous demand, which would mean some form of auction system, and since that is something that ICANN has never done before, the creation of an entire new process to discuss the best way to do it.
That process - if indeed it is even started - will take at least at year, take up an inordinate amount of effort and, no matter which way it turned out, create a huge amount of inevitable criticism from those that didn't win the domains they wanted, most likely accusing ICANN or profiting from an abuse of its position.
Will single-letter domains be released? Who knows. But it is far more likely now than it was last week.
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