Get ready for www.starbucks.coffee -- or even www.coffee.starbucks. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided Monday to allow virtually any word to become a new top-level domain to compete with the old favorites of .com, .net, .org and .gov.
ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said the decision will open "the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination," in that it "respects the rights of groups to create new top-level domains in any language or script."
$185,000 Fees, Plus
Until this decision, there were 22 generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, of which .com, .net, .org and .gov were the best known. Under the new guidelines, gTLDs now can be "almost any word in any language."
But the groups whose imagination will be unleashed will likely be limited to large and flush ones. Application fees will cost $185,000. ICANN has determined that level of fees is needed to cover its cost in evaluating the applications, and, if a group is turned down, the fee will not be returned.
Some observers have estimated that, in addition to the application fee, other costs for application preparation, legal, trademark searches, and web-site preparation and maintenance could add hundreds of thousands of dollars more. In addition to restricting the new domains to groups that can afford them, the high cost of entry could also tame the gold-rush fever that accompanied the first wave of URL naming.
If two or more groups want the same domain, that domain goes to auction.
Applications for the new domains will be accepted beginning in January, and they go into effect July 2012. Already, Canon, Unicel and the city of Paris, France, have announced they will apply for their names as gTLDs. Of course, if Canon owns .photo, instead of simply owning canon.com, it would seem to dramatically change the nature of URLs.
The new gTLDs raise the distinct possibility of a major new level in phishing. For instance, a user might now be suspicious to receive an e-mail purporting to be from Citibank with link that doesn't contain Citibank.com. But how will users respond to, say, e-mails with links to mycheckingaccount.bank?
Andrew Frank, research director at Gartner , said "the dot-com formula is pretty much etched into people's brains at this point in time," adding that it might be "hard to change behavior."
In any case, Frank said, don't expect the change to have much impact on Internet branding until it becomes widespread and people get used to it.
In fact, he said, the biggest beneficiary of this change "could be Google," with users utilizing the popular search engine when they can't remember Canon's new top-level domain.
Posted: 2011-06-21 @ 5:02pm PT
There will be support available for the developing world so that the new gTLD program will not be limited to the largest, best funded applicants. In light of the expected role to be played by names in local languages, this will be a key part of making the Internet as global as its design allows.