Deadline at Hand to Apply for New Top Level Domains

Today is your last chance to apply for your own top-level domain name—.engineer, for example, or .reallywhateveryouwant. (That's assuming you already registered, or else you're out of time already.)

For the past three months, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which regulates addresses on the Web, has been accepting such applications (at US $185,000 a pop) as part of a controversial program it says will “expand the domain name system (DNS) and change the Internet forever.”

ICANN originally anticipated approving between 300 and 1,000 new top-level domains. That’s a huge jump from the existing 22 generic ones (.com, .gov, .edu, .biz, etc.) plus another 250 or so country codes (.fr, .ly, .ru). Under the new paradigm, any name is up for grabs (including non-Latin characters), although you must prove you are financially and technically capable of running a domain registry under your new name.

Proponents of the expansion say it will spur innovation and entrepreneurship online by allowing more businesses and communities to create and manage their own top-level domains. However, critics—including the Association of National Advertisers and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration—worry that the explosion of new addresses will increase spamming, confuse consumers, and pressure companies uninterested in running registries to buy them just to protect their brands.

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to who is applying to run these new registries under which names. But it seems that large brand-name companies from the entertainment and financial sectors are the most likely candidates, according to research released last June by the Australian domain name registration company Melbourne IT. Of 150 organizations surveyed, 92 percent said they’d probably pick a ".brand" domain name. For example, Canon said publically it would apply for .canon, and Hitachi hopes to own .hitachi. Other companies seem to prefer generic extensions, such as .hotel, .phone or .book.

ICANN says it will release the official list of applicants and their proposed names on April 30th, give or take a few days depending on how flooded they are with proposals. As of March 25th, 839 applications had registered with their system, each of whom are allowed to apply for up to 50 new names. If all goes as planned, the first new domain names should start to appear within a year.

[Image source: Melbourne IT]

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