Following the announcement on Monday by The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) at their 41st International meeting in Singapore that they are going to expand the number of possible domain name endings from the existing 22, to include domain names of “any language or script” that can also be up to 63 characters, the online buzz surrounding this change has been considerable, and at points, deafening.
At the moment, the existing 22 generic TLDs, such as .com, .net and .org, as well as 250 country-level domains such as .uk are the only ones available to existing users and websites. Under this new announcement, companies would be able to use the new internet addressing system to buy a domain name that is completely unique to their product or company, such as .coke, .apple and even, .car.
The creation of these new top-level domains or 'gTLDs', was passed by a majority vote, with 13 members of the board voting for the creation of these new domains, 1 voting against and another 2 members choosing to abstain. This recent announcement follows three years of debate after the board initially announced its expansion plan in June 2008 at the 32nd ICANN Meeting in Paris. This approval marks the biggest change to the internet in 40 years, and ICANN are anticipating 300-1000 applications for new gTLDs when the applications open on the 12th of January 2012, and then close on the 12th of April the same year. Around 150 companies have already expressed an interest in purchasing a new gTLD to either protect their brand gain advantage over their rivals, but the price of having a personalised gTLD isn't cheap, and while the application for a personalised domain costs a cool $185,000 (£114,000) alone, regardless of the success rate. Successful applicants will also have to pay an additional annual of fee of $25,000 (around £15,000) for the privilege of having their very own gTLD, so this really isn't something that every Webmaster will be able to afford.
However, this is exactly what ICANN want, and by charging such big fees for a gTLD, it means that very few companies will be able to become involved in this new period of internet domain names and online marketing. To date, well-known companies such as Canon, UNICEF and Hitachi have all confirmed that they are planning to apply for their very own brand URL, and ICANN chairman Peter Dengare has proclaimed that the new gTLD's are part of: “the next generation of creativity and inspiration.” For companies and businesses, the advent of these new domain names heralds a new era for online marketing and retail, as these new TLDs paving the way for consumers to find companies, products and other items much easier than before. While for businesses, the new domain names help protect their brand and their customers from imitation sites, phishing and other fraudulent activities.
But while this change is pretty huge, what does it mean for the billions of internet users around the world right now? Are these new gTLD's going to have much of an impact on their browsing experience and online behaviour? The short answer is no, not right now. Because the first round of applications don't start until early next year, and with the very first of these gTLD's not expected to go live until 2013 at the earliest, it's a case of just having to wait and see what these new developments will do to internet browsing and online retail in the not-so distant future.