The universe of Internet domains will soon experience a Big Bang, thanks to Thursday’s vote by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approving a new system for handing out Web addresses.
Corporations and other public and private entities will no longer be limited to Web extensions like .com, .net or .org; for a fee that will likely start at US$100,000, a company can register a more personalized top-level domain (TLD) with its own brand name extension, such as .coke, .apple or .prada. Cities will be able to apply for .newyork, .berlin or .moscow.
ICANN also voted for the first time to allow non-Roman characters in Web addresses, which means that Chinese companies can register suffixes in Mandarin script, Russian companies in Cyrillic, and so on.
Beginning in spring 2009, the Internet address possibilities will truly be .endless.
New Addresses = New Approval Process
A new review process will govern multiple requests for the same address or for potentially objectionable domain names. Companies owning a particular brand name (Coke, Apple, etc.) will have the first chance at registration.
The new process must also deal with the issue of cybersquatting, where unscrupulous individuals or companies buy domain names — and all their potential variations, including typographical errors — and then seek money from the trademark holders.
“The money should keep the cybersquatters away,” Ernest Grumbles III, a trademark and intellectual property attorney with Merchant & Gould, told TechNewsWorld. “There are a lot of stakeholders that ICANN has to report to … the large brand owners. I could see with a top level domain costing that much, it may reduce [illegal] activity.”
Opportunities or New Problems?
The new name-vetting process will be key in avoiding other digital legal quagmires, Grumbles said. “If they come up with a nice nimble process, it may work.” But he’s not so sure about the idea of auctioning off domains if several entities seek the same address. “I’d almost prefer a lottery.”
There’s another advantage to the higher fees besides chasing away cybersquatters: “ICANN is going to make a big pile of money,” Grumbles said. “They’re looking into the process of trying to get themselves independent and out from any kind of government control. So this will be a good fundraising effort for them.”