ICANN and General Top Level Domains: A Primer

Photo courtesy of Vuono.

ICANN and the grab for General Top Level Domains have been in the news for months now, but the lingo may be hard to follow for some. Here’s a quick overview for those of you who are have not been following the story closely.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is nonprofit organization that has legal authority to coordinate and oversee many different internet functions including Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and General Top Level Domains (gTLDs). gTLDs are the part of a URL that comes after the period (.com, .org, .gov, etc). In the past gTLDs were limited to just over twenty predetermined words. However, ICANN has decided to open up the registration of other gTLDs through an application process that costs $185,000 per domain. The application period closed May 30 and there have been around 2,000 submissions.

Online marketing firms will love getting creative with gTLDs and many large companies and brands have been bidding for words. Organizations with trademarked domains, like Google, will have the right to claim their own gTLD (.google) without having to worry about competing bids. However, non-trademarked gTLDs are fair game for everyone. In a recent blog post, Google revealed that they were also going after .lol and .docs. Many people believe there will be a huge rush to obtain gTLDs of commonly used words like .cars, .hotels, .games, etc.

On Wednesday, June 13th, ICANN will release who has submitted an application and which domains they are requesting. Due to the prohibitive cost of the application, there will not be a massive shift in URLs in the near future. However, you may begin to see large organizations make the switch soon.

Supporters argue that opening gTLDs will diversify the crowded domain naming space, while opponents argue that it will only be beneficial for organizations with deep pockets and domain name registrars like GoDaddy. Don’t worry, though – for the common internet user, the only thing that changes is the string of words you type into your address bar.

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