In 2009, many of the most progressive real estate technology CEOs set forth to combine their efforts around providing an internet construct that allows consumers to know when they are on an official website powered by MLS data.
The problem that consumers face today is that there are so many property search websites which claim to offer MLS data, but do not. Under the current Internet guidelines and provisions, it is nearly impossible for organized real estate to put an end to these false MLS claims that hoodwink consumers.
To cure this issue for consumers and provide a platform for official MLS data to thrive, the MLS Domains Association (also called Dot MLS) was organized to pursue the approval of a top level domain on the internet of .MLS as an alternative to .COM or other top level domains.
The thesis of this effort is that the non-profit MLS Domains Association would approve legitimate MLS sites to leverage the consumer-trusted MLS brand for real estate search on the .MLS domain. The charter of the Association is to issue website names under the .MLS extension for qualifying sites like an MLS Consumer Facing Website.
Recently, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) indicated that they are opening the floodgates to top-level domains. The cost to set up a new top-level domain is $185,000 with a $25,00 annual maintenance fee. There will be a “sunrise” period for companies that own established trademark where the approval process will be more efficient.
ICANN subjects new applicants to an exhaustive process, including a comment period for anyone disputing the registration to object. MLS Domains Associations has the support of many MLS volunteers, along with the support of leading MLS consulting Firm Larson/Sobodka. They have also engaged the support of legal council who specialized in this area of law. The Association was successful at generating the application funds by recruiting 51 likeminded MLSs to join the Association, and through the sale of pre-ordered domain names. Although the full dollar value of funds needed for the initiative is significant, the cooperation of the nations’ progressive MLSs made the individual investments less costly in relationship to the potential benefit if the effort is successful.
On June 20th at the Board of Directors meeting, ICANN indicated that they will begin taking applications as early as January 12th, 2012.
Today, ICANN recognizes 22 top level domains like .com, .biz, .info, .edu and 240 country or territory specific domains like .ly ad .uk. ICANN is also adding the .xxx domain for adult sites that will solve many problems for the internet. This new ICANN initiative will represent one of the most significant evolutions of domain names since the inception of the Internet.
Critics of the ICANN decision have indicated that this new strategy by the organization is motivated by the enormous funds that ICANN stands to receive. Trademark attorneys have also been critical and are concerned over the effort protect brand squatting. They feer efforts will only be compounded by the process to protect brand trademarks across the new domain space. Others suggest that cases where ICANN must organize a panel to adjudicate disputes could cost brands anywhere from $70,000 to $120,000 or more per incident for arbitration, citing conundrums like face.book or i.phone.
The MLS Domain Association has also has its critics, and has itself expressed the potential for a threatening claim from the professional soccer organization, Major League Soccer. A competing business model to cure the MLS brand name was also fostered by the sponsorship of the NAR game changer program by METROPOLITAN INDIANAPOLIS BOARD OF REALTORS®. Under the BLC program the term BLC became a registered trademark, and the thesis is that the registered trademark BLC can replace the generic term MLS.
All things considered, it would appear that .MLS has new life and a high likelihood of having their application reviewed by ICANN.