A Weather Monopoly In The Making?

With the introduction of customizable “.domain” names from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), The Weather Channel has submitted an application for exclusive ownership of the ".weather" title (

Washington Post

). To the average passerby, this may not seem like that big of a deal, but the term "monopoly" springs in to the minds of many meteorologists (myself included).

Back in the infancy stages of the internet, The Weather Channel purchased the domain "weather.com" and no one complained. Since then, the relatively small brand has exploded in to a weather media giant. In a report published by the Daily Beast earlier this month, The Weather Channel Company was in control of 89% of the weather media market. This report was published before they applied for the “.weather” domain. This 89% share would surely increase if granted the rights to the “.weather” domain. And when there is only an 11% share of the market left, it is apparent they are doing everything but sharing.

In the mid '90s, during the battle for web browser supremacy, Microsoft gained an edge over Netscape and other browser based companies by bundling their web browsing software with Microsoft Windows. The federal government challenged that this simple bundling practice was in violation of antitrust laws and took the company to court. The move being made by The Weather Channel does not concern the simple bundling practices of Microsoft. Instead, with nearly 90% of the market in their back pockets, they are attempting to play off of a public predisposition to further their weather media control.

Over the passed two decades, we have been trained to view ".com" sites as being commercial based websites. The same can be said of ".gov" (government) and ".edu" (education) domains. Purchasing exclusive control of ".weather" would give The Weather Channel a distinct advantage in the weather market. The application submitted by the company says the primary purpose of the “.weather” purchase is to "promote consumer trust, competition and consumer choice". By purchasing exclusive rights, they are doing the exact opposite of promoting competition. They are completely stifling the little competition that is left.

They contend that the move is intended to "... prevent the domain’s use by non-weather entities or inappropriate and possibly malicious use." This is admirable at first glance, but then comes the question "will other weather based companies be allowed free access to all of the rights associated with the ‘.weather’ domain?"

If The Weather Channel's true purpose is to prevent non-weather based companies from gaining control while still promoting competition, they should allow for co-ownership with their current competition, such as AccuWeather and The National Weather Service. This co-ownership would centralize all weather products for the viewing public, making it a quick, one-stop-shop for the forecast of your flavor.

However, if we are to take their history of overly capitalistic actions (the purchases of Weather Underground and Weather Central) in to account, it's safe to assume this co-ownership model is not what they had in mind when they applied for exclusive rights. And if the nearly 90% share control of the weather media market is not enough to alert federal antitrust investigators, hopefully this shrewd attempted acquisition will get their attention.