Every day, millions of people do business on the World Wide Web, navigating via the established naming system of top-level domain names (gTLDs, such as .com) and URLs. When new domain news are made available by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), it’s a big deal that affects online business everywhere. According to reports, the largest-ever expansion of available domain names will soon occur.
Wait for it – .sex is coming
Non-profit ICANN manages the infrastructure of the Internet when it comes to domain names, and it rightly predicts that countless businesses will be jockeying for position. Domain names like .google, .wtf and even .sex are no doubt on the way, as well as many more. Experts predict that it will be something of an “everything goes” scenario, and because of this, ICANN has been preparing for the better part of a decade. In June 2011, expansion and the application process for new top-level domains were formally approved.
Big players step to the plate
So far, ICANN has received 1,930 new domain name proposals. The list includes automakers (Fiat, Chrysler, Volkswagen); banks (JP Morgan Chase and Barclays); tech companies (Apple; Google; Netflix; AOL). In essence, what each company wants is to cement its online brand by grabbing a domain name that matches or is very close to the name of the company. Google alone applied for ownership of 101 new domain names, such is the online branding power of the ending of a URL.
Expanding the 21 gTLD system
Currently, there are 21 different domain names, not including those that reflect geographic region. The most common examples are .com, .net, .edu, .gov and .org. ICANN gradually added domain names like .biz, .info and .xxx over the past decade.
“This is a historic day for the Internet and the more than 2 billion people who use it,” said ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom via a webcast. “The Internet will be changed forever. We’re standing at the cusp of a new era in online innovation.”
Money at stake
In order to apply for a domain name, the minimum cost is $185,000 per domain. Based on that figure, ICANN reportedly took in over $350 million in application fees alone. Much of the money goes into the technical and legal reviews required in order to research each domain name proposal that comes in. Reportedly, applicants who can’t afford the $185,000 fee can take advantage of an ICANN support fund in some cases. Those applicants who aren’t accepted will supposedly have their money refunded.
Reveal day is coming
Until ICANN officially reveals which applicants have made the winning bids, the world waits with baited breath. For those who are known to have applied for the same top-level domain names, a cash negotiation process has been instituted. If an agreement cannot be reached, the domain name is put up for auction. ICANN has reportedly banned domain names that sound “confusingly similar,” a scenario where one may be able to exploit the other for business, or even an honest situation where there is a coincidental intersection.