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New Generic Top Level Domains - What's It All About?

Published June 19, 2011

A revolutionary change is about to occur in relation to domain names - but what does it mean for Joe Surfer or the average registrant?

Country specific extensions such as .au are known as ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domains); and number in the hundreds. There are comparatively very few generic top level domains (gTLDs) available - these include .com, .net, .org, .info and .biz. 

There are nearly two dozen gTLDs now, but soon there could be thousands.

While existing gTLD's have served us well for around a quarter of  a century, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is readying to vote on whether to pursue a program whereby companies could create other extensions; for example, .computer, .music or .bank.

The idea behind the initiative is to allow corporations better brand control and create new opportunities in the online world. Some believe it will also help create a more secure Internet.

So, will the average person be able to create a new gTLD? No - one reason is that the privilege will come with a hefty price tag. It will cost around USD$185,000 to apply and according to a draft of the gTLD applicant guidebook, the only parties eligible to apply for a gTLD will be "established corporations, organisations, or institutions in good standing". Applicants will also need to provide evidence of a legitimate claim to the gTLD they desire.

To discourage registration of gTLD's for the sake of sitting on the extension for the primary purpose of resale, owners will need to have operational web sites under the extension they want and ICANN will have a role in approving transfers to new owners should the gTLD be sold in the future.

Another potentially tricky situation is where Company X  decides to apply for a .companyx gTLD - but it's not the only company going by that name. 

Where two companies may have the same name, an objection-based process will enable rights holders to "demonstrate that a proposed gTLD would infringe their legal rights". There will also be a process for objecting to generic word-based gTLD's on the basis that such a gTLD may not be in the community's interest.

There is currently a maximum limit of 1000 new gTLDs that will be delegated each year , assuming the initiative goes ahead, and the initial application period is expected to last a couple of months. 

More information on the gTLD initiative can be viewed on the ICANN web site.

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