View Full Version : Bad News ICANN OK's Domain Expansion

Mike Nomad
06-21-2011, 08:07 AM

ICANN approves plan to vastly expand top-level domains

By John Timmer | Published about 19 hours ago

Do you find the reliance on things like .com, .net, and .org too restrictive? Haven't found a country code that floats your boat? ICANN, the organization responsible for managing the domain name system, has decided that it's time for a more flexible system for managing the top-level domains that help translate IP addresses into human-readable form. The plan has been in the works (http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/06/confusion-icann-opens-up-pandoras-box-of-new-tlds.ars) since 2009, but it has experienced a series of delays (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/02/icann-releases-new-gtld-guidelines.ars). Now, though, the organization has finally approved a process for handling new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), and will begin accepting applications in January.

Prior to ICANN's existence, gTLDs were pretty limited: .com .edu .gov .int .mil .net .org and .arpa, although a large collection of country codes also existed. In 2003 and 2004, however, the organization began allowing a cautious expansion, adding things like .name and .biz (along with some oddities like .aero and .cat). And, just this year, it approved the .xxx domain (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/icann-approves-xxx-red-light-district-for-the-internet.ars) after a rather contentious consideration period.

ICANN apparently recognized that there's a continued interest in expanding gTLDs, and set about creating a mechanism to handle requests as they come in, rather than to consider them in batches on an ad-hoc basis. And at least according the FAQ site (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/strategy-faq.htm) that it has set up, the organization expects a busy response: "Soon entrepreneurs, businesses, governments and communities around the world will be able to apply to operate a Top-Level Domain of their own choosing." (More details, including an Applicant Guidebook, are also available (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm).)

Still, the FAQ also makes it clear that grabbing a gTLD won't be an exercise in casual vanity. Simply getting your application processed will cost $185,000 and, should it be approved, you'll end up being responsible for managing it. Do not take this lightly, ICANN warns, since "this involves a number of significant responsibilities, as the operator of a new gTLD is running a piece of visible Internet infrastructure." Presumably, service providers will take care of this hassle, but that will simply add to the cost of succeeding.

ICANN suggests the changes will "unleash the global human imagination." At best, the unleashing will be pretty limited, with a maximum of 1,000 new domains a year. Some of these will undoubtedly show signs of imagination through a clever use of character combinations in some URLs. Mostly, however, we expect that the new gTLDs will simply provide domain registrars with the opportunity to suggest you buy even more domains when you register a .com or .net.

Further reading
ICANN's press release (http://www.icann.org/en/news/releases/release-20jun11-en.pdf) (icann.org)

SOURCE (http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/06/icann-approves-plan-to-vastly-expand-top-level-domains.ars)


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