Edmond-based LifeChurch.tv may be in wait-and-see mode for a while. The church has applied to register the “.church” domain name with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
ICANN, as it is informally known, is a nonprofit corporation that was formed to assume responsibility for the allocation or management of domain names, Internet Protocol addresses, protocols and root servers. In June, the corporation unveiled the names of organizations that have applied for domain names, each paying an $185,000 per domain application fee.
The new domains would go beyond “.com,” “.net” and “.org” that most people are now accustomed to and would include new web address endings such as “.church,” “.bank” or “.green.”
LifeChurch.tv is not the only organization that applied for the “.church” domain name. A company called Donuts Inc. also has applied for the name.
LifeChurch.tv is known for being technologically savvy and a technology leader for faith-based organizations. The megachurch, headed by founder and senior pastor Craig Groeschel, has 15 campuses in five states.
Bobby Gruenewald, pastor-innovation leader at LifeChurch.tv, recently discussed the church's decision to apply for the “.church” domain name and where the application process now stands.
Q: Has the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers accepted your “.church” request? What is the timeline?
A: No, it's going to be a long process. What they just did a few weeks ago was basically publish publicly all the agencies that have applied during the window of time that they made available for companies to apply. And so there's a process of public comments that's going on now where people can make comments of support or challenge to it. The process to receive approval is one that will take several months, maybe even well over a year for them to go through.
Q: Another company, Donuts Inc., also has applied to register the “.church” domain name. What do you know about this?
A: They are a for-profit company that applied for 300 and something different names, and “.church” was one of those. Right now, that would sort of be competition between the two of us to see which one of us they would approve. The process is all brand new. This is the first time they've (ICANN) opened this up for organizations to do this, and so we're not exactly sure what it will look like because ICANN is still deciding how the process will flow. I imagine what will happen at some point is we'll have a conversation with the other organization and see if there is a way we can work it out. I think that is what they encourage. The difference between the two organizations is that we're obviously a nonprofit; we're a church. We have hundreds of relationships with pastors and churches, and we feel like we are positioned really well to represent that name and feel like we would be good stewards of that name. We're also certainly willing to talk to the other organization and see if there's ways we can accomplish the goals that we have along with them.
Q: What made you decide to make this request?
A: It's actually been something that we've talked about for the last couple of years. The process that they started opening up this top level of domains has been discussed now for several years, and the organization ICANN had several meetings on it. We've monitored that, and we've thought that it would be great for a name “.church” to be available similar to “.net” and “.com,” just because it would give churches an opportunity to have their own name space that they could use. A lot of church websites have the word church in the domain but on the other side of the dot, and it would reduce some redundancy. Instead of having to say “LifeChurch.tv,” we can put the “church” on the other side of the dot. It can lead to some shorter domain names.
The main thing is we want the church collectively, not just LifeChurch.tv, to be very visible and engaged in leveraging technology to reach people, and we've sort of done our best to be a leader in that area and to try to provide resources to churches and ministries around the world. We felt like with this major change to the domain name system, we wanted to make sure that the church was present and had an opportunity to be a part of it. It requires a commitment and we felt like it was something that we could take on and we should do. When I say “church,” I'm talking broadly about the global church. We wanted to make sure that churches had access to a name that represents churches.
Q: LifeChurch.tv provides numerous materials and resources to churches free of charge. Is this going to be something similar to that program or are you going to ask them to pay a fee?
A: There will be a fee. This will be a little bit different but only because there's hard costs that are involved for each name that is registered. For us to make it open-ended and completely free would be us taking on more financial risk. If approved, this is not something you can stop doing. You are very much committed to doing it indefinitely. We will have a nominal fee based on what our actual costs are in the process. Our goal is to make it so it is very, very affordable for any church around the world to be able to have access to it. We try to do things for free most everywhere we can, but this would just have a nominal fee that we hope would be consistent with what you would pay if you registered somewhere else.
Q: How have churches responded to the news about your application?
A: We've already heard from churches that want to register a “.church” name. We've had many positive responses from other churches that have been posted on ICANN's website. Some are very supportive of us being the one to steward it. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.