Vanity Domains Inch Closer For 23 Big Retailers, But Not Walmart Or Amazon

Vanity top-level domains (TLDs), which seemed like such a good idea a year ago to Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Safeway (NYSE:SWY), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), are slowly grinding their way forward. Last week ICANN, which is selling the new dot-names at $185,000 each, said it has finalized the registrar's contract for the new names. Unfortunately, that doesn't help the would-be owners of .walmart, .amazon, .book and .grocery—they're still stuck in ICANN's flypaper-like approval process.

To be fair, after more than a year, 552 vanity TLDs (out of 1,930 applications) have actually made it through the process to the point where there are no objections and they don't match other applicants. That includes retail-related terms like .camera, .clothing, .market, .markets, .pharmacy, .shoes and .toys, along with 23 actual retailer names. They're ready to start getting their contracts. Everybody else still has hurdles to climb.

Some of those problems are just a matter of time. For example, .walmart hasn't gotten a green light simply because its application has too high a number, so it hasn't made it through its initial evaluation. Walmart does already appear to be on a clear path to collect .samsclub, .asda and .george (for its in-house apparel brand).

Other retailer brand names whose applications haven't been considered yet include .athleta, .bestbuy, .coach, .gap, .homesense, .jcp, .piperlime, .polo, .safeway, .staples, .thd (Home Depot), .tiffany and .zappos. (Macy's applied for .bloomingdales, but has since withdrawn the application.)

In Amazon's case, the E-tail giant has already gotten clearance for 15 of the 76 .names it applied for—but not .amazon. That application is being held up because it's also a geographic term and several South American nations have objected. It's been specifically called out as one of the names that will get special attention at ICANN's meeting next week in Durban, South Africa.

Amazon is also fighting with Google over who will control .book. Amazon wants .book for its exclusive use, while Google and five other contenders want to sell domain names that end in .book. It will take the name a while to wend its way through ICANN's contention process, after which a lawsuit seems likely.

Then there's .grocery, which both Walmart and Safeway have applied for. Walmart wants the name for its exclusive use. Safeway's application says it's willing to sell .grocery domain names to others, but only after about five years of testing—and then only to Safeway customers. (Does anyone think Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons will ever qualify as Safeway customers, no matter how many groceries they buy with a Club Card?)

Then again, if someone had applied for .groceries, they'd have a clear shot at it, because ICANN has decided it doesn't think .names are confusingly similar just because they're in singular and plural versions. So Google is in line to snap up .car, while three applicants for .cars will have to fight it out. And if Amazon had applied for .books, it wouldn't have any competition. (But since ICANN is no longer accepting applications, that can't happen now.)

It's still unclear whether any of these vanity TLDs will ever be useful to customers—.com is still king of the domain-name hill and its popularity shows no signs of flagging among consumers. But for the record, here are the retailer brands that already look like they have a clear path to approval:

  • apple
  • asda (Walmart)
  • bananarepublic
  • calvinklein
  • george (Walmart)
  • gucci
  • hgtv
  • homedepot
  • homegoods
  • macys
  • marshalls
  • mcd (McDonald’s)
  • mcdonalds
  • nike
  • oldnavy
  • qvc
  • samsclub
  • target
  • tjmaxx
  • tjx
  • tkmaxx
  • vons
  • winners