It’s a move that surprised no-one, having been the subject of much speculation for some time now. Despite the lack of raised eyebrows, though, a big change has just been approved to the internet domain name system by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the independent organisation responsible for managing domains across the interwebs.
ICANN has today given the go-ahead to a substantial increase in the number of generic top-level domains (such as .com and .net) from the present total of 22 up to a theoretically infinite number of gTLDs, as the stage has now been set for any organisation – including governments, businesses and non-profits – to operate their own gTLD using a word of their own choosing.
This would mean, for example, that you could one day find out about your next Apple handset at iphone.apple, or order a new phone at mobile.virgin. Okay, maybe not that last one.
Organisations across the world have already signalled considerable interest in the new system. CircleID.com reports that, in anticipation of significant demand across Asia, international domain name registrar Afilias has allied with major web host HiChina, to help Asian companies to pursue what they call a “dot.BRAND” approach. Afilias senior VP Roland LaPlante said that “a dot.BRAND TLD lets major companies control how customers experience their brand online and helps break through the noise and clutter online”.
It remains to be seen whether or not these new gTLDs will really make things much (or at all) simpler for end-users, but either way, ICANN will be accepting applications from interested parties from 12 January to 12 April 2012. Between now and then, the organisation will be running a global campaign to generate some buzz around the changes, and to address any doubts and concerns that may arise about the value and efficacy of the new system.
And for anyone who might think all these changes are a waste of time, be inspired by the words of ICANN’s president and CEO, Rod Beckstrom, who believes that today’s decision “allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind”.
As one or two of you have pointed out in the comments, the cost of acquiring one of these new gTLDs isn't for the fainthearted. The application cost alone is $185,000 per gTLD. You'll have to cough $5,000 just for the privilege of requesting the application form, and they'll be banging on your door for the other $180,000 as soon as you send your application form in.
And that's not the end of it. There are numerous stages of the application and approval process, and the further along in the process you get, the less money you'll get refunded if you decide to pull out. The more you progress, the more you pay too, and if someone disputes your right to a domain, resolution and arbitration will add thousands and thousands of bucks to the bill.
There's a great explanation on the application process and cost breakdown over at Geek.com.