The era of .google, .microsoft and .apple is coming as ICANN decides to let organizations apply for custom domain suffixes.
The organization that governs Website domain suffixes has
voted to allow new top-level domains that can be whatever the domain owner
wants-for a price.
The custom suffixes will allow domain names to end with
almost any word and in any language, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers) said June 20 following a vote in Singapore. ICANN
will accept applications between Jan. 12 and April 12, 2012, with corporations
and cities expected to be among the first in line.
There are currently 22 generic top-level domain names
(gTLD), including the most commonly used .com, .net and .org, along with about
250 country-level domain names, such as .uk and .ca. The new change will allow
companies to end the domain addresses with their brand names, such as .google
"ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to
unleash the global human imagination," said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief
executive officer for ICANN.
There is no limit to the number of suffixes that can be
created, but the process for applying for one is both expensive and complex. It
will cost $185,000 to apply for a custom suffix and applicants would need to
show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. ICANN will keep
the application fee even if the application is rejected, the non-profit group
said. It will also cost about $25,000 a year to run the registry after it's
The application fee will cover costs incurred by ICANN to
develop the new gTLDs, to hire experts who will handle the applications and to
fund potential legal actions from applicants who don't get the domains they
want. The price is also set to be high enough to deter most cyber-squatters
from grabbing names and will cover the cost of review to ensure applicants are
not violating trademark rights, ICANN said.
The application process will perform a background check of
applicants to examine business history and for any signs of past
cyber-squatting. There will also be string similarity reviews to determine if
the domain is like anything else on the Internet and assess potential security
risks, ICANN said in its Applicant Guidebook.
The process is expected to take about nine months.
"Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for
their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a
nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace
Ernst, a Forrester analyst, wrote in a blog post.
The new policy is an opportunity for brand protection and
innovation for brands and businesses in the online realm, Ben Crawford, CEO of
United Kingdom-based CentralNIC and co-founder of dotBrand Solutions, told
eWEEK. "The risks and costs associated with not acquiring a "dot brand" gTLD
are numerous," he said, noting that companies who move too slowly to register
their custom suffixes risk being locked out if a "confusingly similar" word is
For example, if someone gets .apples, Apple will not be able
to apply for .apple, according to Crawford.
"Dot brand" domain
names will make Web addresses more intuitive for consumers and search engines,
Crawford said, noting that the focus on trademark protection will create a
Besktrom said the decision respects the rights of groups to
create new TLDs in any language or script, and would allow the domain name
system to "better service all of mankind."
Some activists said the decision does not address issues
such as blocking, censorship and restrictions on free speech. In fact, it "may
actually exacerbate blocking and censorship," wrote technology activist Lauren Weinstein,
co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility. The "ethically vacuous nature
of this entire plan" will have a negative impact on Internet users with the
possibility of increased cybersquatting, spammers and phishing, Weinstein said.
She also claimed that the changes would benefit only the big companies and
major brand names.
ICANN said it will set aside $2 million to assist
applications from developing countries.
The ICANN vote comes after almost six years of negotiation among
its members. The custom suffixes mark the biggest change to the domain system
in the past 26 years.