Trevor Little

‘.gop’, now in sunrise, is notable as it is the only new gTLD in the first round of applications to be operated by a political party. However, one commentator has urged brands to consider the string when devising their registration strategies, no matter what their political persuasion.

The GOP acronym stands for ‘Grand Old Party’, an alternative name for the Republican Party in the United States. Run by registry operator Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), the ‘.gop’ string is in sunrise until June 30, with general availability then opened. In its application, the RSLC‘s stated goal is the creation of “an interactive, identifiable, and easily accessible outlet for people in the Grand Old Party, organisations and businesses that associate or identify with GOP and others interested or involved with the political party, whether on a federal, state or local-office level, to communicate by sharing ideas, ideology and policies in ways they deem appropriate and beneficial to the party as well as the public at large”.

In terms of the potential audience, its application pointed to the 2012 Almanac of American Politics’ estimate that there are 84 million self-identified Republicans in the US, providing a sizeable community of potential registrants. Representing the largest number of Republican office-holders in the country, the RSLC itself has more than 100,000 donors across 50 states and is partnering with the Republican National Committee and other elected officials to launch and use the domain. The launch timeline also coincides with the run-up to the upcoming midterm elections, providing an opportunity for the organisation to  both promote the string and use ‘.gop’ addresses to deliver political messaging.

When preparing for sunrise registrations, as it isn’t strictly an industry term it is a string that may not have been afforded the same degree of scrutiny as others, but Fairwinds Partners' Josh Bourne told World Trademark Review that it is one that brands, particularly in the US, should consider - especially given that the string will be open to anyone, not just Republican candidates and official organisations: “The US political space touches virtually all businesses and institutions across industries and across the country. The national media has seized on uses for the ‘.gop’ domain and profiles of its launch have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and others. This much attention - and the nature of the political space online - tends to invite mischief through cybersquatting or otherwise.”

It will be interesting to follow take-up of the ‘.gop’ string. While not a geographical TLD, like ‘.berlin’, ‘.london’ and ‘.nyc’, ‘.gop’ can target both a defined community and the wider registrant community. Bourne argues that “downstream of registration and as the ‘.gop’ space forms, trademark holders [which have registered their trademarked terms] can then leverage the TLD to engage with a passionate audience through a branded ‘.gop’ experience if they wish to”. On the flip side, It is not beyond the realms of possibility that, particularly if the ‘.gop’ space is used for political commentary purposes, sites formed to discuss or criticise brands also crop up.


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