Claims Swirl Around ‘.Jobs Universe’

By Toni Vranjes

July 8, 2011

As the legal battle over the .Jobs Universe continues, you may be wondering what the implications of the ambitious project are.

But like many things in life, that’s open to debate.

The .Jobs Universe consists of 40,000 geographic and occupational domains, which end in the “.jobs” suffix. The network allows job seekers to search by location and occupation. For instance, you can visit sandiego.jobs and accounting.jobs.

The DirectEmployers Association manages the .Jobs Universe, through a non-exclusive alliance with Employ Media. The two groups say that it streamlines and improves the job-search process for job seekers and employers.

When it was launched in January, DirectEmployers predicted that the .Jobs Universe would revolutionize the entire process.

However, critics say the promises are inflated. They also claim that the project raises trademark concerns — and therefore is a threat to the many small businesses that operate job boards.

The DirectEmployers Association touts the .Jobs Universe as the only employment platform on the Internet that’s owned and managed by employers through a nonprofit consortium.

Job listings are indexed from member companies and thousands of other employer career sites. In addition, jobs are uploaded from 40 participating state workforce agency sites.  All employers can request that their jobs be indexed and included in the .jobs database.

In total, more than 90,000 employers have jobs listed there. Since its launch in mid-January, more than 1.2 million unique visitors have been to the .Jobs Universe, according to DirectEmployers.

Job Seekers

The .Jobs Universe offers better search results for job seekers, according to Bill Warren, the executive director of DirectEmployers. Job seekers can find real jobs and avoid employment scams, he emphasizes.

“The number one objective for the .Jobs Universe is to be a trusted source for both employers and job seekers,” Warren said in an e-mail.

All jobs are updated daily from corporate websites and state workforce agencies.  Jobs that have been filled are deleted daily, he adds.

“The .Jobs Universe is the only search engine on the Internet where job seekers can search all jobs across employer career sites with results that are free of scams, duplicate job listings and old or expired jobs,” Warren said in an e-mail.

The online network also establishes a direct link between employers and job seekers, he notes. Job seekers can use the .Jobs Universe to apply directly into the employer’s applicant tracking system.

But critics say that it’s a bunch of hype.

The .Jobs Universe doesn’t actually help job seekers, insists Peter Weddle, executive director of the International Association of Employment Web Sites.

“In my opinion, it’s job-site spam,” Weddle says. “It just makes it harder for job seekers to find the best websites for them.”

He estimates that there are at least 100,000 employment websites, excluding the .Jobs Universe. Those websites include job boards, career portals, and social-media sites such as LinkedIn. And most of those sites provide job listings.

The best websites offer not only listings, but also other valuable content such as job-search articles and tips, Weddle says.

Employers

The impact on employers is also a matter of dispute.

According to the DirectEmployers Association, employers benefit because the network offers an alternative to expensive listings on traditional job boards. All employers may list their jobs free of charge. In addition, all employers have low-cost advertising opportunities, the group adds.

Some listings do get prominent placement, however. The 600 members of the DirectEmployers Association have their jobs listed first in the search results, Warren says.

Employ Media executive Ray Fassett emphasizes that the domains are integrated, which is a major benefit for employers.

“It allows employers to efficiently distribute their jobs across relevant sites matching the job description,” says Fassett, the executive vice president of operations for Employ Media.

But Weddle also questions the value of the .Jobs Universe for employers.

“The only way employers get any value from posting on the site is if they pay up,” he says. “Otherwise, it’s an invisible posting.”

Job Boards

In addition, Weddle claims that Employ Media has infringed the trademark rights of established businesses that operate job boards. It has done so, he asserts, by allowing other groups to register domain names that are confusingly similar.

“This is a very serious issue,” Weddle says. “Most of the companies in the employment-services industry on the Web are small businesses.”

Fassett, who founded the .jobs domain, says that the data tell a different story. In six years of operation, there have been no trademark complaints filed for any .jobs domain name registration, he says.

Weddle asserts that the ICANN process for resolving trademark disputes is expensive and time-consuming, which are major barriers to pursuing this option.

But Fassett replies: “Trademark owners that feel their rights are being infringed upon do not hesitate to take action to defend their rights.”

So while the legal battle continues, so does the debate over the impact of the .Jobs Universe.

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