My Predictions for 2012

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This past year has been an interesting one, to say the least. We witnessed major decisions that will affect the top-level domain business dramatically, including the approval of .XXX and new gTLDs.

And while I made a few predictions at this time last year, there were some events in 2011 that no-one could have foreseen.

That said, and for what it’s worth, here are three relatively small, and two larger Internet-related topics I think we’re going to hear a lot about in 2012:

I blogged about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) the other day. While word from the White House has been that the President will not support the bill, the fact is we have not seen the last of these heavy-handed attempts to protect copyright and prevent counterfeiting.

In light of the online protest against SOPA and its impact on the legislative debate in Washington, I’m of the belief that legislation like SOPA will never see the light of day. Governments are going to have to start getting very creative in order to find the balance between protecting copyright and preventing counterfeiting while maintaining a free and open Internet. SOPA is going to signal a tipping point of sorts. The SOPA debate has demonstrated to the ‘old white guys’ in charge that they are reaching a dangerous limit when it comes to inhibiting freedom of the Internet.

On a related note, the Canadian government has been attempting to amend copyright legislation for a few years now. The current bill, C-11, will likely pass before this coming summer. The Copyright Modernization Act is exactly as its name implies: legislation to bring copyright law into the 21st century. Like SOPA, it is not without its critics, especially with regard to the ‘digital lock’ provisions in the bill. Even though the opposition will vote against the bill, it will pass.

New gTLDs: We’re looking at adding hundreds of new top-level domains in 2012, and even more (if possible, given the current human resource capacity for the bodies that have to review the applications) in subsequent years. Since the decision to move ahead by the ICANN board in 2011, opposition has come from many sectors, most notably from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

It is no exaggeration to state that the introduction of new gTLDs is one of the biggest changes to the domain name industry in the past 20 years, and will affect registries, Registrars and domain name holders. For country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registries like CIRA, the new gTLD program means we will soon be living in a market with significantly increased domain choices for consumers. Registries will find themselves in a market that is more complex and competitive, and they are going to have to adapt to survive.

The bottom line? ccTLDs are going to have to ramp up their marketing activities to cultivate a distinct product in a sea of similar ones. Some will flourish, while others won’t. CIRA is in a very good position right now to thrive in the new market. Over the past couple of years, we’ve made some significant changes, including a greater focus on marketing and communications and a renewal of the .CA product.

Opposition to the new gTLDs will ramp up in 2012, especially after ICANN begins receiving applications in January.

All of this to say that there will be two winners as a result of the introduction of new gTLDs in 2012, consultants and lawyers.  There will be more than enough work in 2012 for consultants developing proposals for new gTLDs and navigating the bureaucracy for dispute resolution. And, I predict many, many lawsuits around gTLDs in 2012, keeping a lot of lawyers very busy.

Mobile: Yes, every year I include mobile in my predictions.  Given global trends over the past few years, it’s a safe bet. However, mobile is growing faster than any other ‘new thing’, and its impact is potentially huge.  Why do I think mobile will stand out in 2012? Because although we may think it to be ubiquitous now, Morgan Stanley, the global financial services company, predict that smartphone sales will pass computer sales in 2012, meaning that it may become the primary device with which people connect to the Internet – a wakeup call for marketers and communications folks, I’m sure. And, major credit card companies are launching mobile payment systems in 2012; this will undoubtedly be the push for mobile Internet use to become ever-present.

DNS amplification attacks have been around for a few years, but it looks like 2012 is going to be the year they explode. They are a type of denial-of-service attack that exploit recursive name servers, amplifying DDoS attacks making them particularly dangerous.

Amplification attacks waste the bandwidth of the target, as well as the open recursive DNS server they’re exploiting.  It’s so attractive to attackers because they can send a minimal amount of spoofed traffic out and have their target receive several times that amount – it allows someone on a five megabyte per second home connection to attack a company with a 100 megabyte per second connection effectively.

Though running a recursive DNS server open to the entire Internet is not a good practice, there are many that are, and those that are up to no good on the Internet are going to find them and exploit them in 2012.

Lastly, the contract between ICANN and the U.S. government expires in March 2012, and is currently up for competitive bids. While any (American) organization can bid on the contract, I don’t think I’m putting myself out on a limb by saying ICANN will be the winner. After all, not only does the successful bidder have to be an American, their primary operations have to be based in the U.S. And, given the amount of attention being paid to Internet governance lately, the U.S. government knows it’s not in their best interest to be making any significant changes right now, especially when one of the key players is already on his way out.

That’s my top picks for 2012. What are yours?

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  • Sean Stephens

    Great post, keep em coming.

    I’m interested to hear more about why .ca’s might be better positioned than the new gTlds given the possibility of sub-standard DNS response times. When we are building websites – not just for Canadians – it’s important to be able to explain to our clients that there is a palpable benefit to a “.ca”.