New Generic Top-Level Web Domains Change URLs Forever

NEWS ANALYSIS: The new top-level Web domains that ICANN opened up recently promise to make your life more complex, impact your budget and raise new security threats. And that's the good news.

On Jan. 12 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers opened up the Domain Name System to allow basically anything as a top-level domain. This means that you can now expect to see addresses with company names or other specialized words in the part after the dot.

You might, for example, see domains with .beer or .pizza. Or you might see company names such as .ford or .eweek. In fact, with a few exceptions and a few limits, you can find pretty much anything for a top-level domain. Until recently, TLDs were based on the type of site, such as .com or .edu, but that's all changed with the introduction of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs.

The registration window for the new gTLDs closes March 29, 2012, and the last day for applications is April 12. You can find details on how to apply for a top-level domain of your choice on the organization's Website, where the details of how this system works are clearly laid out. It's worth reading.

One of the things you'll find out is that the new gTLDs will make your life more complex. While it may be cool to have a top-level domain with your company's name, it'll cost you $185,000, unless you qualify for the reduced fee of only $47,000. So it's not cheap. You also run the risk that someone else will register for your name before you do. For example, there's nothing to keep the Ford modeling agency from getting a new .ford TLD before the Ford Motor Co. grabs it.

It may also be possible for your competitors or even people or companies with no connection to your company to buy your name just to keep you from using it or to perpetrate fraud in some way. While the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) promises not to let registrants take trademarks that aren't theirs, there are a lot of questions about how this would actually be implemented.

Meanwhile, some companies are already starting to sign up for the new gTLDs. You can see a list, along with some well-thought-out descriptions of how it all works on The New gTLD Practical Guide, a site that appears to be sponsored by Go Daddy. The question is whether you should sign up as well. The answer-like so many things involving the Internet-is, well, it depends.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...