LOS ANGELES — Move over, .com. Get ready for .anything .you .can .think .of.
The body that controls the way Internet domain names work, known as ICANN, has voted to open up the naming system so that any established organization with enough cash can apply to create its own version of .com, .org or .gov.
In the for-profit world, that means that instead of going to coke.com or nike.com, you might be able to go to drink.coke or justdoit.nike. Nonprofit groups could reserve the .school domain and hand one out to every elementary school. Cities could consolidate their online presence at .nyc or .losangeles. And interest groups could stake out their own corner of the Web by offering every auto junkie a .car domain name, every law firm a .law address, and every restaurant a site that ended with .food.
But just like real estate in the real world, this new virtual land won't come cheap. The price tag to get a new domain created is $185,000. Only "established public or private organizations" can apply, and all applications must prove they have the technical capability necessary to keep a domain running.
ICANN, the Los Angeles-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been planning the naming expansion for much of the past decade, and approved it at a board meeting in Singapore on Monday morning. The nonprofit company, long been the steward of the Internet's naming system, will begin accepting application soon — and allow parties to apply for a new name during a three-month window.
Internet observers expect that the initial expansion might bring 500 new options for site suffixes, which are called generic top-level domain names, or gTLDs. There are only 22 now, including the original eight: .com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, .org and .arpa.
Starting in 2000, ICANN has added 14 new top-level domains, including .biz, .info and .jobs. Few of the new names have caught on, with .com remaining the standard across many industries, even though it can be difficult and expensive to find new .com names, with the most desirable names long ago snapped up by companies, individuals and cybersquatters.
ICANN hopes that by, in essence, creating huge new online land grants, that it will undo that naming gridlock, as well as make the Internet's naming system safer and more intuitive. Users might know, for instance, that any website ending with .movie is a legitimate new film from a recognized studio or filmmaker, and won't lead to an Internet backwater that might be looking to snooker visitors.
"ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new top level domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind," said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN's president and chief executive officer.
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