Cybele Negris has a message for businesses that don’t want to be associated with the adult-entertainment industry. The Vancouver entrepreneur says such businesses should ensure their brands can’t be registered using the new .xxx top-level domain, approved earlier this year by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. They’ll have the chance to block the registration of their trademarks during a 30-day sunrise period, starting in September.
Negris is the cofounder and president of Webnames.ca, a Gastown-based company that grew out of the original registry for Canada’s .ca domain. Although Webnames started out as a domain registrar, the University of British Columbia spinoff now offers web hosting, email, search engine optimization, and other Internet services.
Born in Hong Kong, Negris is 42 years old. She serves as the vice chair for Small Business B.C., and sits on the board of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs of British Columbia and the B.C. government’s Small Business Roundtable.
The Georgia Straight reached Negris by phone at her home office.
What was your role in the early days of the .ca top-level domain?
Well, I was one of the cofounders of Webnames.ca. My partner John Demco actually founded .ca in Canada in 1987. So, when I was involved we basically maintained the registry in the beginning, and then we became one of the registrars. My role was really anywhere from building web content to hiring and managing staff to writing policies and legal agreements—basically like any startup.
Why is .ca still relevant on the web?
.ca is the ccTLD [country code top-level domain] for Canada. When John wanted to maintain .ca as the country code for Canada, he did it with the intention of having an online identity for all of us Canadians. Rather than a .com, I think many companies want both, but Canadian companies absolutely want to have a .ca because it tell your customers that you’re first of all Canadian, you’re going to be charging money in Canadian dollars, that when you’re shipping you’ll be shipping products within Canada and your products aren’t subject to duty, and the component of buying local.
I think for a lot of companies and individuals, they want to support local businesses and they want to support our own economy. For most Canadians, I think, they would rather support the Canadian economy. That’s why .ca is so relevant.
How do you think .xxx will benefit Internet users?
I think there are two sides to it. On the one hand, the proponents for .xxx are saying that you're segregating pornographic and adult content onto .xxx. So, from a management perspective and a parental perspective, it would be easier. That remains to be seen.
On the other side of it, there’s obviously the negative side, where companies will need to be protecting their trademark and their brand. The last thing I would want is Webnames.xxx...out there with objectionable content....There’s that whole side of companies and people trying to make money off of cybersquatting. I think that’s going to be huge under the .xxx domain.
Why is the domain name system being changed to bring in many new generic top-level domains?
Well, ICANN, they’ve gone through a lot of discussion, public consultation, and meetings around this process. It’s my understand that they had a mandate to make the Internet much more open and inclusive and less dominated within North America, particularly the U.S. It’s their idea of opening things up to the world and making the marketplace be the driver.
In the past, there’s only been 20 gTLDs approved over all of these years. All of sudden, they’re saying they’re going to be approving anywhere from 300 to 1,000 in a year. So, it’s going to be a huge explosion, and what’s going to happen is they’re going to stop choosing which ones they feel are going to be successful.
They’re going to leave it up to the marketplace. So long as you have the US$185,000 to pay for the application fee and you say that you can fulfill the criteria to run and maintain the registry, then they’ll approve you. They’ll leave it up to the market to decide if you are going to be successful or not.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.