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New Domain Names: What To Expect

ICANN's plan to expand available Internet addresses is finally coming to fruition. Learn more about the plusses and minuses of the new generic top-level domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN's) long-running plan to dramatically expand the number of available generic top-level domain names, or gTLDs, should soon finally bear fruit. Then again, the real work for ICANN, domain registrars, businesses and other stakeholders is just getting started.

Today, there are 22 gTLDs -- the short string of characters to the right of the "dot" in Web addresses, like .com or .org -- available to the general public. ICANN, the governing body that oversees the public domain name system (DNS), approved a plan more than two years ago to increase by hundreds and likely thousands the number of available top-level domains. That would in turn exponentially increase the total number of available Internet addresses.

In the first major phase of the expansion, various organizations lined up to apply for ownership of new gTLDs. The cover charge wasn't cheap -- each application alone cost $185,000. Some applicants were domain name registrars with plans to sell Web addresses with the new suffixes, such as .inc or .web. Others were corporate behemoths like Amazon and Google that applied for gTLDs reflecting their brands, trademarks or other interests. Those applications were then evaluated on a variety of criteria, not the least of which was whether they were contested -- meaning there was more than one application for the same extension.

That phase is now complete and the first new publicly available gTLDs should begin hitting the market before the end of 2013, according to Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's generic domains division. That isn't guaranteed though, thanks to the operational and technical complexity involved in the wide-scale development of new Internet real estate.

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"Of course, there are a lot of other issues that we're resolving as well that are holding up some of the applicants," Atallah said in an interview. Those include resolving concerns around GAC advice, for one -- feedback from the Governmental Advisory Committee on domains that may violate national laws or otherwise upset cultural sensitivities around the globe. And while some contested gTLDs were resolved by the applicants themselves, others remain disputed; Atallah said those will soon enter an auction phase to achieve final resolution.

Yet another issue is "name collision" -- the likelihood that some of the internal names that IT departments use in their company's private networks, such as .mail or .corp, will end up as public domains. That could cause security and stability issues: "These private namespaces sometimes 'leak' into the public DNS (either through misconfiguration or the use of old software), meaning that requests for resources on private networks could end up querying the public-facing DNS Root Servers and hence 'colliding' with the delegated new gTLD," ICANN said on its website.

There have been a host of other concerns, too: the potential for trademark and brand infringement, confusion among Internet users and the fairness of an application process that required $185,000 just to get in the door, as examples.

In other words: Massive development of new real estate isn't all that different online than in the physical world, where a mess of zoning rules, local, state and federal laws, neighbor disputes and other issues introduces regular headaches and slowdowns into the project.

Successful applicants will eventually have the new gTLD "delegated" to them for administration. At that point, ICANN is longer in direct control of how quickly, if ever, a domain will enter the "sunrise" phase -- a 30-day period prior to it going live in the public DNS. Certain suffixes, like .basketball, were applied for by organizations that will likely use them for their own purposes rather than sell addresses on the domain to the public. The .basketball applicant was the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA), for example, the sport's international governing body. gTLDs such as .architect or .pizza were applied for by companies like, a venture-backed domain name registrar that will sell addresses on the new gTLDs at retail. ICANN received nearly 2,000 applications in all.

The expansion has had its detractors. Some businesses have expressed concerns about trademark and brand infringement once new domains begin entering the market on a regular basis. If you own, for instance, what's to stop someone else from registering the same name at 50 new suffixes?

ICANN launched the Trademark Clearinghouse to mitigate that issue, though it charges fees for each registration. Atallah estimated it has received north of 10,000 entries to date and hailed it as a benefit of the new domain names.

"This new program puts in place a regime of protections for [trademark holders] that has not existed in the past," Atallah said. The clearinghouse effectively gives trademark holders first right of refusal to register any domain name that might infringe on their marks. It will also provide secondary defenses, such as automatically notifying registrants that the URL they're buying may violate someone else's trademark. "It's a very good system that the community put in place," Atallah added.

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[email protected],
User Rank: Apprentice
10/14/2013 | 8:05:37 AM
re: New Domain Names: What To Expect
New generic top level domains (gTLDs) will be of use to those who haven't so far been able to register their chosen name because it has already been registered by another party. Until now, getting your chosen domain name has been a struggle.

Additionally, it should help businesses (and individuals) by giving them a chance 'belong' to a certain namespace and thus they will be found more easily when appropriate search methods are used. For example, all architects who are able to register 'theirname.architect' will increase their chances of being found by people specifically wanting an architecture service.

It's about time the namespace was given the chance to expand with our ever growing population and requirements.

Pre register your gTLD at
User Rank: Ninja
10/9/2013 | 5:52:35 AM
re: New Domain Names: What To Expect
How's dot eat for a new top-level domain sound? I'm sure nobody thought of that. Can you imagine Mcdonald' Sounds yummy. I wonder if I can sell it for also $185,000.

Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 5:00:11 PM
re: New Domain Names: What To Expect
Given the global nature of the Internet, it's mind-boggling to think about the juggling act involved in ensuring no new tld name is offensive to any group. Since ICANN, when you come right down to it, lacks judicial standing, what happens if a dispute arises over these names? The legalities are hazy. I can see SCOTUS having a field day.
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