The list of multiple listings services seeking to create and manage a new top-level Internet domain, .MLS, continues to grow, but the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) now looks unlikely to approve any such requests until early 2012.

The MLS Domains Association, launched with 15 members in March, now counts 45 MLSs and Realtor associations representing more than 575,000 brokers and agents as members.

The list of multiple listings services seeking to create and manage a new top-level Internet domain, ".MLS," continues to grow, but the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) now looks unlikely to approve any such requests before early 2012.

The MLS Domains Association, launched with 15 members in March, now counts 45 MLSs and Realtor associations representing more than 575,000 brokers and agents as members.

The nonprofit company is hoping ICANN will grant it the authority to create and manage a .MLS domain to help consumers distinguish MLSs from third-party listing sites.

Many third-party sites not affiliated with Realtor associations or MLSs have registered dot-com and dot-net domain names that incorporate the term "MLS," which can’t be trademarked. If the MLS Domains Association is granted the right to manage a new .MLS top level domain, it would only permit MLSs and Realtor associations to register .MLS domain names.

The MLS Domains Association has already begun allowing MLSs and Realtor associations to claim .MLS domain names, with founding members who paid one-time membership fees of $13,333 getting first dibs.

The group’s website lists nearly 250 .MLS domain names that have been claimed as of Dec. 15 — including one that’s contested. Both California-based MetroList Services Inc. and Colorado’s Metrolist Inc. have claimed "metrolist.mls." 

But ICANN, which had originally planned to begin accepting applications in 2009 from companies interested in creating and managing new "generic" top-level domains like .MLS, has yet to act.

According to reports on domainnamewire.com and circleid.com, plans to open up the application period in May 2011 are likely now on hold, as ICANN failed to approve an applicant guidebook at its recent meeting in Cartagena, Colombia. ICAN has said it plans to issue the guidebook at least four months before taking any applications.

The guidebook has yet to be approved because the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee has several concerns about generic top level domains that must be resolved first, including protection of intellectual property rights and preventing "malicious conduct," circleid.com reported.

ICANN’s board will meet with the advisory committee in February, domainnamewire.com reported, but even if those issues are resolved, procedural issues would likely delay the acceptance of applications to August.

Once ICANN begins accepting applications during a general application period that will last "a minimum of several weeks," it has warned that the review and approval process will be "complex and involved," requiring the coordination and consensus of many groups and factions.

Depending on the complexity of an application, the review approval process will take eight to 19 months, the group said in a "frequently asked questions" bulletin.

Based on that timeline, it would be the spring of 2012 before ICANN approves any new generic top-level domains, and reviews of more complex applications won’t be completed until 2013.

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