New York: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is preparing to release the biggest change to the Internet address scheme since its initial introduction in the 1980s. Over a thousand new suffixes are being considered giving customers significantly more choices than *.com and *.net.
These top-level domains (TLDs) will offer more choices but create challenges to companies wanting to protect their brand. The initial TLDs that we are all familiar with were *.com and *.net. The next TLD release consisted of country-specific domains such as *.us and *.ca. To ease the demand for the *.com domain, *.biz and *.info were created, but didn't catch on. People chose domains such as AAAHousePainters(.)com over HousePainters(.)biz.
Companies have been giving feedback on domains and are already to become registry operators for their own TLDs. Company-specific domains such as *.ibm will likely be controlled by that corporation and highly restricted. Other more general domains such as *.food and *.car will be highly sought out by companies wanting a piece of the registry action.
The first domains are expected to be released in mid-2013. These will be the foreign language domains, giving ICANN time to prepare the more exhaustive list to release.
In a few weeks following the initial release, domains that had limited interest except by corporations and organizations will be released. These domains are most useful to individual entities and not the public at large. Domains such as *.ibm and *.toyota fall into this category. Also in this category are geographic and location-based domains such as *.newyork and *.grandcanyon.
Another set of generic-sounding domains have few bids for registry. Domains such as *.vacation may find a following but didn't receive much interest during the input period last year.
Another set of generic-sounding domains have received much more attention and several bids for control. Domains such as *.app and *.tech are perceived to have a high value and many companies are seeking to become the registry of them. Once the final decision is made as to who will control these domains, they will be released.
During 2012, almost 2,000 businesses and organizations gave input to ICANN with requests to control nearly 1,400 new domain names. The goal of this TLD release is to broaden the Internet addresses to reflect more intuitive domain names instead of the current creativity used to keep a *.com for a company.
Starting late March 2013, ICANN will give companies the chance to protect specific domains for a fee. These will typically be trademark holders such as Dell and Ford. The Trademark Clearinghouse will closely monitor who controls these domain names to prevent some of the chaotic domain purchasing and hoarding seen in the 1980s.
Companies will be able to register the new suffixes before they are open to the public. After that deadline, the Trademark Clearinghouse will contact the company if someone else wishes to register the name. This system is only for notification and doesn't control the actual registration. The company will then have to work with the person or company to sort it out.
For instance, if Ford Motor Company fails to register *.ford and another company seeks to register the domain, the Trademark Clearinghouse will notify Ford and put them in touch with the other company. It's then up to the two entities to work out an agreement. It's in the best interest of these companies to make sure they have the appropriate domains registered before the deadline.
One outstanding issue for ICANN is whether they will support common misspellings or trademarked words used within a longer domain name, such as *.fordtrucks. The release of new domain names could take time as these questions are resolved.
Domain names are representative of the company to which they are associated. ICANN received several foreign language requests to create domains in their native language instead of English. Companies in those countries felt that having the native language spelling enhances their Internet presence.
As domain names with multiple registry bidders are resolved down to a single registry by ICANN, they will be placed into the pool for release. They expect to hit a release rate of 20 domains a week once the momentum gets started. Where multiple bidders to control a domain can't reach an agreement, ICANN plans to hold an auction for control of the domain.
Technical departments worldwide are beginning to get ready to support this influx of new domain names. While it gives companies more choices, like many large technical changes, the choices will likely come with some challenges.
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