Beyond Dot-com: Toward a New Internet Naming System

by Jordan Richardson on June 21, 2011

The Internet will soon undergo a significant change with respect to its naming system. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced that websites will no longer be limited to suffixes like .com or .org, opening up possibilities to nearly any word in any language.

This opens the field up to virtually anything, from company names to political causes to absolute gibberish.

“This is the start of a whole new phase for the internet,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors. “Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”

The floodgates certainly won’t be opened right away, however. Not only will users committed to creating domain names like fluffy.kittens have to pony up $185,000 for an application fee of sorts, but ICANN is only approving 1,000 new domains per year.

Non-Latin characters will be making an appearance in Internet domain names for the first time, with languages like Arabic and Chinese able to make an impact. This is good news for Chinese domains in particular, with the country boasting almost 400 million Internet users.

The business world will unmistakeably squabble over domains, too. “It will allow corporations to better take control of their brands,” said Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT. “For example, .apple or .ipad would take customers right to those products.”

The application process is said to be quite laborious, so cyber-squatters and other domain hogs won’t be able to sit on a popular name for long. A criminal history check and business “diligence” will also guide the application process for ICANN, while the comparatively high fee for a new and elegant domain should dissuade some less responsible users.

Currently there are 94 million websites registered with a .com suffix. There are 200 country suffixes, such as .jp or .ca and about 22 open names like .tel for telecommunications. Back in March, ICANN approved .xxx for you-know-what. It is expected that there will be about 500 to 1,000 new domain names, mostly from companies. Cities and political groups could also be in the hunt, with .eco apparently already being sought after by various environmental groups.

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