ICANN (Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers) has recently given the go ahead to create a new set of generic top-level domain suffixes with various endings such as .SKI, .NYC or .LA for the first time since .com suffixes were introduced over 20 years ago. This new initiative will greatly increase the geography of the Internet.
The new guidelines will potentially allow cities, countries and companies to buy URLs ending in their brand name such as .Apple or .Google. This could be an advantage for companies, for example Apple does not currently own the www.iPad.com website it could therefore (if it successfully purchases the .apple domain) create a website that caters for the iPad using a www.ipad.apple domain, the company would also have access to create other websites within a trusted .Apple domain for a number of their other products.
Another advantage the new TLDs holds for brands could be to help them protect their online presence, through owning the domain suffixes they would create trustworthy sites for their customers to access, thereby reducing the ability of fraudsters to cash in on their brand names through activities such as phishing and domain spoofing activities.
The current ICANN registry holds about 22 generic top-level domain names (gTLDs):
.com : companies, now broader
.edu : educational institutions
.gov : government institutions
.int : international organisations, e.g. Interpol
.mil : military organisations
.net : networking technologies, now broader
.org : non-profit organisations
.arpa : first ever domain, now technical use
.aero : air travel industry
.biz : business alternative to .com
.coop : co-operatives
.info : information, but open for general use
.museum : museums
.name : personal names - johnsmith.name
.pro : professionals, e.g. doctors
.asia: Asian websites
.cat : Catalan language
.jobs : employment websites
.mobi : mobile phones
.post : postal services
.tel : telecoms
.travel : travel
And 250 country-level domain names such as .uk
The new guidelines aim to produce hundreds of new gTLDs.
The application process will open on January 2012 and cost $185,000 (it will be open for 60 days) - the cost has been justified by ICANN senior VP Kurt Pritz who has said that it is based on a cost recovery fee, to enable ICANN to evaluate the applicants legitimate claim, as well as their technical and financial ability to operate a registry.
ICANN was created in 1998 to bring choice, innovation and competition to the Internet and these new domain have taken into account the views and concerns of a broad range of stakeholders who took part in the discussions to reach a consensus in producing the guidelines. It is hoped the new guidelines will give Internet users a greater choice to access sites whose domains may not be based on English ASCII characters, opening up the market to new languages with web addresses based on Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Indian characters - although it does depend on the level of interest from respective communities and companies from a particular language background.