In case you haven’t heard, the days of .com’s and .net’s are coming to an end. There’s a new chapter in domain registrations coming with the introduction of potentially unlimited top level domains. A top level domain (TLD) is the highest or top level in the domain name hierarchy, that is, it’s the far right section of your domain name after the final dot. For example, if you were to own the domain example.com, you have actually registered a sub-domain of the top level domain .com. The top level domains are managed and assigned by the non-profit organisation ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) located in the US.
While .com, .net and .org are probably the most common and well known top level domains, there are also country code top level domains (ccTLD’s), for example .au. While most ccTLD’s are regulated and won’t allow you to buy a direct sub-domain (for instance, you can’t buy yourdomain.au, but you can buy yourdomain.com.au), some countries have chosen to lease out there top level domains directly, this can be quite a lucrative prospect for some lucky countries. The best example is .tv which is owned by the Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu. Leasing out the fortuitously assigned .tv domains generates Tuvalu a large chunk of its national income.
All this is about to change in the very near future as ICANN is set to auction off any word or code you can think of as top level domains. This means in the very near future we will see websites ending with .music, .blog and .afl. But before you go rushing out to bid on one a new top level domain, you’ll need to scrape together US$185,000 just to have your application assessed. Then to pass the assessment you’ll need to pass the strict set or technical requirements proving you are able to competently manage the new TLD. Many of the new top level domains will be held by companies looking to lease sub-domains, so for instance, the winner of .blog can count on millions of new domain registrations (perhaps even crucial.blog). However not all TLDs will be made public, many will be owned by large multi-national corporations who are reserving their trademark and making their space on the web easier to access than ever before. Want to go to the coke website or login to netbank? Easy, no dots required, simply type ‘coke’ or ‘netbank’ into your URL bar.
The ICANN website has a list of top level domain applications. So you can browse through the hundreds of applications to get a glimpse of what’s to come. Many large Internet companies are in on the bidding with Google one of the largest, apparently applying for over 100 top level domains under the name “Charleston Road Registry Inc”; and being the master of all online information, they’re going after some of the big ones, including earth, music, blog, game and even lol.
Another major change coming with the new TLDs is the addition of non-Latin alphabet domains, meaning for the first time many people around the world will be able to register domains in their native language. This is no small change when you consider that there are more than 500 million internet users in China.
Finally, there are some potential downsides to the new domain name system, including ownership and potential misuse of domains such as charity, health and med. There is an objection process in place with ICANN and the above domains as well as others have already been challenged. Into the future, misuse of commercial application of ‘community’ domains may be a major problem for the pending free-for-all domain name system.
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