For the small application fee of $185,000 and $25,000 per year, you will soon be able to buy your own generic top-level domain. Top-level domains (TLDs) are the .com’s, .net’s, edu’s and others that we’ve become so accustomed to. Until now, if you were Microsoft or CNN, you couldn’t register .cnn or .msft, even if you were willing to pay a lot for it, as the organization in charge of administering these domains did not allow for these kinds of vanity domains. Now, however, in what could turn out to be a history decision (at least in Internet terms), ICANN’s board has given the green light for these new generic TLDs.
Until now, there were only 22 generic TLDs (.com, .org etc.). Now, however, those with enough money will soon be allowed to register their own TLDs (think something along the lines of .coke, .cnn). According to the ICANN board, these new address names “will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.” ICANN will start accepting new registrations in the first quarter of 2012.
Critics of this decision like online privacy expert Lauren Weinstein note that this will only force companies to buy their own TLDs to protect their trademarks and that this move does nothing to “solve the many crucial technical, policy, blocking, neutrality, censorship, and free speech issues that are at the forefront of the Internet today.”
Will Consumers Care?
No matter how you feel about this decision, though, most consumers simply expect a business to have a .com address and have never cared much about alternative domains like .info, .co, .mobi or .biz.
Using .com has become such an ingrained part of the Internet ecosystem for most users that all of these other TLDs never stood a chance. It remains to be seen if this will change now, but I’m skeptical (at least in the short term).
A large number users now default to search engines to find even the simples URLs like Facebook and CNN anyway. In this context, these new top-level domains make even less sense given how many Internet users don’t understand how domain names work anyway.