Internet policymakers appear to be in the home stretch on a controversial plan to add hundreds of new domain name extensions -- such as .nyc, .africa and .sport -- that could forever alter the e-commerce landscape.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says it will post online Nov. 9 what it hopes will be the final version of its guidebook for organizations applying for new top-level domains (TLDs).
"We're going to be posting it soon, and depending on the public comments we get, and how quickly we can address the overarching issues, we hope to be wrapping it up," says ICANN spokeswoman Michele Jourdan.
ICANN's board expects to approve the latest version of the applicant guidebook at its next meeting, which will be held in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, from Dec. 5 to 10.
If the applicant guidebook is approved, ICANN says it will begin accepting applications for new TLDs in May 2011.
Industry observers predict that new domains could become operational in 2012.
"The ICANN Board is really ramping up their efforts to get this done. They are putting the finishing touches on the issues they've been wrestling with such as trademark protection and vertical integration. With the next version of the applicant guidebook, they're about to put a stake in the ground on all of those issues," says Roland LaPlante, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Afilias, which is the registry operator for 15 domains including .info and .asia.
"ICANN has been working on this applicant guidebook for new [TLDs] for quite some time, and they've done a very nice job of addressing any expected issue that could come up: trademark protection, scaling of the root, security considerations," says Lance Wolak, director of marketing and product management for .org, the Public Interest Registry. "There continues to be commenting going on in the ICANN community in getting these open issues resolved. I really think they are very close."
ICANN has been talking about adding hundreds of new TLDs since its inception in 1998. Since then, ICANN has twice opened up the Internet landscape to new domains. In 2000, ICANN added seven extensions including .info and .biz, and in 2004 ICANN added six more extensions including .asia and .jobs.
None of the new extensions has been wildly successful.