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Originally published January 23, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Page modified January 24, 2011 at 7:10 AM

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New '.jobs' network may doom for-profits

A massive network of employment websites — where any company can list job openings for free — launched last week over the protests...

The Washington Post

A massive network of employment websites — where any company can list job openings for free — launched last week over the protests of newspapers and online recruitment companies, who fear billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The 40,000 sites, with Web addresses that all end in ".jobs," have the potential to upend companies such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, which only a decade ago set up for-profit jobs classifieds online that roiled the media companies that printed the listings on paper. The initiative is being backed by nearly 600 industry titans such as Google, American Express, IBM, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

Finding jobs on the .jobs sites is simple: A nurse looking for work need only type in www.nurse.jobs. For someone looking for a job in the Seattle area, for instance, there's www.seattle.jobs. It works for scores of professions, every state, any U.S. city with more than 5,000 people, and 126 countries. Later this year, suburbs and small towns will be tossed in, too, and the network is expected to grow to 100,000 websites.

The new sites are operated by a nagging rival to Monster: the Indianapolis-based nonprofit DirectEmployers Association, whose executive director is Bill Warren, 69, a former Monster president whom Monster sued unsuccessfully after he left in 2000, he said.

In an interview, Warren gleefully pointed out what he views as hypocrisy by the online recruiters who fought the existence of his new venture: "Back in the 1990s, when we put the first employment site on the Internet, some of the people who are now protesting — Monster and CareerBuilder — were very happy and dancing on the graves of newspapers. But now, something like this is going to have an impact on them, and obviously, they're not so happy. This is an evolution of Internet recruiting."

Matthew Henson, a Monster spokesman, declined to comment.

All this potential upheaval was made possible by a little-known nonprofit called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was created during the Clinton administration to run the Internet's address-naming system.

New flexibility

The .jobs domain was approved five years ago, but you could only have corporate names such as IBM.jobs or LockheedMartin.jobs. Last month, ICANN gave final approval to DirectEmployers Association to add a twist to the existing .jobs websites: search-friendly professions and geographic locations. The new flexibility caters more directly to how users search for jobs online, according to experts.

For-profit competitors vociferously complained to ICANN that the new leeway would harm their brands and business models.

"I think [these new jobs sites] are going to be a formidable challenge," said Peter Weddle, the executive director of the International Association of Employment Web Sites, which last year fought the approval of the new sites, and whose members include major newspapers as well as Monster and CareerBuilder. "ICANN is a small organization with a lot of influence, but with nobody overseeing its application over the rules."

Craig Schwartz, ICANN's chief registry liaison, rejected the accusation. ICANN's board of directors includes a variety of international executives from the private and nonprofit sectors, including a former Department of Homeland Security official, an IBM official and a former European Parliament member, according to ICANN's website.

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"I don't agree that we're not accountable to anyone. We're accountable to the global Internet community and its stakeholders," Schwartz said. "That's why it takes a lot of time to process new rules. It's the nature of our global governance structure."

Major corporations, particularly those who are among the 580 major corporations that pay dues to the DirectEmployers Association, believe the nonprofit's sites will shake the online recruitment industry. The association's members, which pay an annual fee of $15,000, enjoy perks on the sites like getting their job openings placed at the top. Warren said he did not rule out the possibility that nonmembers could pay a fee for high-priority placement in the future.

"Of all the solutions you hear of, this is the one you think has the most viable solution moving forward. This will have a profound effect on the jobs-list industry," said a senior recruiting executive for a top Fortune 500 technology company, who was not authorized by his bosses to speak publicly. Monster costs around $400 per job. "The traditional job-board model is so pricey, especially in these economic times. We have to invest in the future."

Randy Goldberg, vice president for recruiting at the Hyatt hotel chain, said the new jobs sites have an appealing Web model but will need to prove themselves.

"It all depends on whether candidates realize that the dot-jobs domain is out there and utilize it," he said. "The advantage of Monster and CareerBuilder is branding. And as long as people still go there, we'll still need to participate there."

"But this has the potential to be a game-changer," he added.

Key advantage

Goldberg said the key advantage of the "dotjobs" sites is employers can directly post all of their openings for free, on one universal network of sites, and can ensure those positions have not yet been filled.

Goldberg said he often can't post all of Hyatt's available jobs on Monster or CareerBuilder because the fees are too expensive; and that some free sites such as Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com often feature expired listings. "From a candidate's perspective, to know that I can go to hotels.jobs to be able to see a true, clean list of all the jobs within that category, that's powerful," he said.

Peter Zollman, founding principal of the AIM Group, an interactive-media consultant firm, said the new sites cater to how people search for jobs nowadays.

"The reality is that lots of people are now accustomed to using search engines and search-engine strings to find a job rather than going to the traditional job boards," said Zollman, whose dozens of clients include Monster, The Washington Post and Lawjobs.com. "If you have built a jobs board for nurses called www.orlandonursingjobs.com, and now these guys come along to start www.orlandonursingjobs.jobs, there's a big risk. It could change the whole way people search and find jobs. "

Big fear

That kind of scenario is exactly what the International Association of Employment Web Sites fears.

"This is an economic-recovery killer," said Weddle, the association's executive director. "It's going to infringe on the trademarks and undermine thousands of small businesses who have spent the last 15 years serving job seekers very well."

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