In 2013, agreements were signed for the first batch of new sponsored generic top-level domains (gTLDs) under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) expansion policy.

Among the applicants for new gTLDs were 594 brand owners, seeking ownership of 675 of their own ‘.brand’ domains. .brand domains are defined specifically as those where the operator of the domain’s registry service is also the owner (or affiliate of the owner) of a trade mark registered with the Trademark Clearinghouse and used in connection with their registered goods or services.

Since then, 559 contracts have been signed for .brand domains, 246 have taken the necessary technical steps (called ‘delegation’) to register their domains in the root servers of the internet and 65 are in active operation and can be found through Google and other search engines. While this may seem low, the rate at which these domains are coming online is accelerating.

Between June and November, the number of delegated domains more than doubled and the number of active domains tripled. The biggest sectors using .brand domains are digital and financial companies, with just under half of active domains. The remaining domains are spread across a wide variety of sectors including education, insurance, media and electronics.

These .brand domains are being used in a number of ways, the most common currently being ‘mini-sites’ with just a few pages hosted on each domain. These contain social media tie-ins like Abbott Pharmaceuticals’ lifetothefullest.abbott and Samsung’s play.samsung, educational and promotional campaigns like readytowork.barclays and innovandconnect.bnpparibas and pages set up for events like the Spectre film tie-in assistmoneypenny.sony. Other uses include hosting brand editorial content and company information, like magazine.emerck or the various corporate sites hosted under .axa (the very first active .brand domain).

For the moment, applications for .brands are closed, but with the next round predicted to start in 2018 and with increasing numbers of these domains coming online many companies are starting to look at the potential in claiming their own .brand TLD.