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The Internet as we know it may soon be changing forever. From January 12¸ 2012 to April 12¸ 2012¸ the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is expected to accept applications for new generic “top level” domain names (gTLDs)¸ which is the text to the right of the dot¸ where .com¸ for example¸ is now.
New top-level domains could be a generic term such as .shoe¸ a geographic term such as .nyc¸ or a trademark¸ commonly referred to collectively as “.brand” domains. Thus¸ under the new system¸ companies might be able to own domain names that consist of just their trademarks¸ without the .com. In addition¸ new gTLDs will be available in non-Roman scripts¸ such as Cyrillic¸ Chinese¸ or Arabic.
The cost of such new top level domain names won’t be cheap. The filing fee alone is id=”mce_marker”85¸000¸ with no guarantee the name will be awarded. The operating costs of running the registry for the new top level domain may also be substantial¸ depending in part on whether the public will be allowed to register “second level” domains (such as nike.shoe) or if the domain name space will be restricted to use by only one company (such as .nike). Running a registry requires extensive technical capability and the costs of outsourcing this responsibility over the ten year commitment could reach into the millions of dollars. Thus¸ a new top level domain is not for everyone.
Who is ICANN?
ICANN was formed in 1998 in an effort to privatize the management of certain Internet resources and technical functions¸ shifting responsibility from the United States government. ICANN operates without direct government control¸ taking input from numerous “constituencies” including domain name registrars (retail sellers)¸ registries (who maintain and run the computers that manage the addressing of second level domains within the particular top level domain)¸ Internet service providers¸ commercial and business owners¸ intellectual property owners¸ and noncommercial users¸ as well as governments.
ICANN has already overseen the addition of over a dozen new top-level domains¸ such as .biz¸ .info¸ and .travel. Most recently¸ .xxx was finally adopted after years of controversy and objections from the U.S. government and others¸ and litigation is now pending against ICANN’s approval of this gTLD on antitrust grounds.
The new gTLD program that ICANN is now embarking on represents a dramatically ambitious expansion of Internet domain name space. ICANN says that it expects hundreds of applications in the three-month filing window¸ which opens in January 2012¸ and it has announced that it intends to introduce up to 1000 new gTLDs per year once the program is fully operational. For companies that already expend significant resources in developing their online brand strategies and enforcement policies¸ this quick and vast expansion of the I