The new website suffixes should start appearing in 2012.
Icann, the internet naming board, has decided to allow the number of internet “domains” to expand enormously in one of the biggest changes ever to the internet’s method of naming sites.
New website suffixes should start appearing late in 2012 and could be categorised by subjects including industry, geography and ethnicity and include Arabic, Chinese and other scripts.
A special meeting of Icann’s board approved a plan to expand the number of possible internet domain name endings from the current 22 – such as “.com”, “.org” and “.net” (which are separate of the country-specific domain endings such as “.uk”) – to allow domains “in any language or script”, according to Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive of Icann.
“Today’s decision will usher in a new internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”
But the move could also create enormous confusion for consumers and companies. It greatly expands the risks from “phishing” sites because they could use confusing domain names in language scripts that look similar to existing ones to capture peoples’ details.
And for companies, the challenge will be to decide whether to register their names in all possible domains, or to create their own suffix, or to limit themselves to a small number of domains.
The need for a larger number of global top-level domains – gTLDs – has become increasingly obvious with the expanding number of languages being used on the internet and the shift towards IPv6, a new numbering system for internet addresses that enormously expands the number of devices that can be connected directly to the net.
Icann’s decision follows years of discussion and debate, and went through more than seven revisions. Icann insists that strong efforts were made to address the concerns of all interested parties, and to ensure that the security, stability and resiliency of the internet are not compromised.
The move is the biggest change to the internet’s domain naming system since “.com” was introduced 26 years ago, which opened out the formerly academic and military system to commercial use.
Icann will receive applications for new domain names for 90 days from 12 January 2012. The fee is $185,000, and the form for application is 360 pages long. It will also begin an awareness campaign pointing out that it has introduced the new scheme.
Photo credit: Asian Correspondent