AICPA opens up applications for .cpa domains

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The American Institute of CPAs and its technology arm, CPA.com, have begun the first phase of the rollout of their new top-level internet domain, .cpa, and are now accepting applications from CPA firms for specific addresses.

This “Brand Protection” phase of applications runs through Oct. 31, and is designed to make sure that CPA firms have an opportunity to register for .cpa URLs that match up with their current .com URLs and firm branding. Applications are limited to licensed CPA firms that agree to actively use the domains they are applying for; all applications will be considered together after the Oct. 31 deadline, with priority for any particular address given to the firm that has the corresponding .com URL.

“You can reserve your existing .com URL,” explained CPA.com president and CEO Erik Asgeirsson. “If you want another domain, then it depends on who else applies, and who has the closest URL to what’s being requested. It will be a logic-driven process.”

The goal is twofold: to help firms extend their current branding and digital positioning – and to cut cybersquatters out of the process.

“What we don’t want is people buying up domains and not using them,” said Michael Cerami, vice president of strategic alliances and business development at CPA.com. “We’re looking to be as fair as possible, and not get into auctioning these sites. We’re trying to make as fair a playing field as possible.”

Results of the “Brand Protection” phase will be released in early November. Following that, the “Early Adopter” phase will run from Nov. 5 to Jan. 14, 2021, where URLs will be available to licensed CPA firms on a first-come, first-serve basis. Starting on Jan. 15, .cpa registrations will be opened up to individual licensed CPAs.

Pricing for a standard .cpa domain is $225 a year. Premium domains — those with just two or three letters — will cost $690 a year.

Firms can register here.

More secure brands

Until relatively recently, the number of top-level domains was very small – primarily .com, .edu, .org or .gov. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the international body that registers internet addresses, has allowed that number to expand, but even now there are only around 600 TLDs, and 40 percent of websites still end in .com.

“It is expensive to get a top-level domain,” Asgeirsson explained. “It’s a complex process, you spend millions to put the infrastructure together. That’s not something a small firm can do — they’re not going to create top-level domains for their firm, but they don’t have to, because we have .cpa.”

Because ownership of a .cpa address will be limited to licensed CPAs and CPA firms confirmed by the institute and its chosen administrators, Neustar, it will significantly limit the potential for phishing and spoofing attacks by hackers looking to impersonate CPAs.

“We’ve been focusing on how domains are a foundational part of your firm – they’re used everywhere on the internet; you see them in portals, in emails, on the website,” said CPA.com director of operations Chris Cromer. “So if you’re using a less-secure domain, like .com and the other legacy TLDs, you’re putting your firm at risk.”

“If you start with a more secure domain to build your brand on, everything above will be more secure,” he continued. “It’ll keep away that cybersquatter community — every time there’s a new TLD, there’s a rush of these cybersquatters, but they can’t do that with .CPA.”

“Trust is a crucial commodity in business and on the internet, and it’s a cornerstone of the CPA profession,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon, in a statement. “The .cpa domain will signal you’re doing business with a licensed CPA firm or individual CPA, so it provides an additional level of trust, security and brand recognition in online interactions.”

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AICPA CPA.com Erik Asgeirsson Barry Melancon
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