With new Web domain name rules, .anything is possible


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


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