At their 41st international conference in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that they would move to dramatically expand the number of generic top-level domains (gTLD) for use as web addresses. While some of these would be truly generic, similar to the existing .com or .info, ICANN said that companies could soon pay for their own custom domain names.
There are currently 22 gTLDs available for use, but the new expansion will lead to many, many more. Until now, new gTLDs were handed out sparingly. The .xxx domain, for instance, was in the works for years. But from January 12, 2012 to April 12, companies and individuals can petition ICANN for their own so-called “.brand.” Despite it being an open petitioning process, applicants will still face tough obstacles. Not the least of which will be a $185,0000 application fee and $25,000 per-year to maintain the registry.
Some companies, like Canon cameras, have already publicly stated their interest in a custom domain, likely hoping to build up their brand and perhaps shorten their URLs will follow suit. But some companies may feel forced to purchase a new domain, simply to prevent someone else from squatting on the URL. ICANN says that it will have mechanisms in place to deal with people that don’t play fair, but if the current ubiquity of parked URLs is any indicator there will surely be some poached addresses once the new domain scheme begins.
Of course, it’s not all about money and copyrights. The new scheme will also allow non-English domains, and move the Internet into a more dynamic space. Perhaps this is the end of the .com supremacy. We’ll have to wait and see.