ICANN Nears Expansion of Domain Names
Today, the Internet has 21 generic top-level domains and another 250 country-code top-level domains. Yet almost half of the 196.3 million registered domain names across all top-level domains are in .com, the original designation for companies doing business on the Internet.
"Only .info, .biz and .mobi ever got above a million names of the 15 new TLDs," LaPlante admits. "But registrations aren't the only measure of success. The Catalan community is thrilled with .cat, which has 20,000 or 30,000 names. They are very proud of their success. Other TLDs seem to have lost their way, like .pro, which had a pretty cool business plan and a pretty cool vision but never caught on."
Whether or not the latest round of new TLDs will be successful remains to be seen.
ICANN says the new TLDs will provide more innovation, choice and competition on the Internet, especially for non-English language speakers. The new domains can be anywhere from three to 63 characters in length and can support Chinese, Arabic and other scripts.
So far, dozens of groups have announced plans to apply for new TLDs, including cities like .paris and .berlin, regions such as Latin America's .lat, and charities such as .unicef
Existing registries say that the new domains that are likely to be successful are those that introduce new ideas into the Internet, rather than those that copy existing domains.
"Hopefully, ICANN will get a wide range of applications from all kinds of creative new things, causes and geographies," LaPlante says. "Every major brand ought to be looking at it."
Wolak is intrigued by the idea of internationalized domain names, which are in foreign language characters rather than their ASCII approximations.
"One of the new TLDs that we at .org are very interested in is a fully internationalized domain name," Wolak says. "We're interested in launching a few variations of.org in different character strips. That's something that's new and different and doesn't have a long history or entrenched competitors. And it opens up the domain space to new languages."
ICANN anticipates receiving anywhere from 300 to 1,000 applications for new domain name extensions.
"ICANN already said they will not put more than 1,000 TLDs in the root in any given year," LaPlante says. "But that's a big change given that there are only 271 in the entire root now."
ICANN's latest efforts to expand the Internet's Domain Name System could have a significant impact on multinationals. Already, tax giant Deloitte and camera manufacturer Canon have announced plans to apply for extensions using their company names. IBM is said to be considering applying for .ibm.
Companies and other organizations will need to spend $185,000 to apply for a new TLD, with no guarantee of approval.
"I'm seeing a lot more companies exploring the concept," LaPlante says. "I think they are better off to go than not to go…because they have the opportunity now to get their names in a TLD, and they have no requirement that they use it aside from having a few names resolve. If they sit on the sidelines, or find out that two or three of their competitors applied, they could be at a competitive disadvantage for some time. ICANN says they are rolling the TLD window open now, but they haven't said when they'll open it again."
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