The great Internet name rush has begun. By this time next year, more than a thousand new top-level domains—such as .blog, .cloud, .lol, and .foo—could be added to the Internet’s name space. And companies and individuals could be rushing to snap up domain names to either extend their Web presence or—in the case of domain names like .lol and .sucks—save themselves from ridicule.
Today, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the governing body of the Internet’s domain name system—revealed the 1,930 applications in the first flight of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) approved under ICANN’s long-debated and controversial expansion policy. Pritz and ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom and ICANN Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz unveiled the list of applications at an event in London, streamed live off ICANN’s website.
“The Internet is about to change forever,” Beckstrom said, claiming that the new gTLDs would create a “solid foundation of greater choice and competition.” Beckstrom said that as many as a thousand new gTLDs could be approved by next year, and that if even just 75% of the applications are approved, the size of the potential Internet domain name space will “expand fourfold” when the new domains start to go live early in 2013. He added that the board of ICANN is determined to have a next round of gTLD selections to further expand the name space, and the timeframe for that will be determined at a meeting later this year.
Google was one of the single largest sources of applications, submitting 101 gTLD applications through the company’s Charleston Road Registry domain name subsidiary. Some were focused on the company’s own brands, such as .google, .android, .chrome, .gmail, and .youtube. But others were more generic (such as .cloud, .car, .map, and .mail), or targeted at lifestyles or demographics (.dad, .kid, .baby, .family, .mom), or simply “creative” (.lol, .love, .fun, .foo, and .boo). Amazon was close on Google’s heels, with 76 of its own applications—some of them (such as .cloud, .mail, and .app) in conflict with Google’s.
Google and Amazon aren’t the only ones with competing applications for gTLD names. Pritz said there were 731 applications—over a third of those submitted to ICANN— that conflicted with at least one other applicant’s requests, covering 230 domain names. There were 13 applications for the .app TLD alone.
The largest volume of applications overall came from Donuts, a domain name registry company set up explicitly to make bids for gTLDs. The company filed applications for 307 TLDs, each under a different subsidiary name. Donut applied for domains under a wide range of generic dictionary words, as well as a few oddballs such as .wtf.
But the ICANN executives made it clear that not all of the domains applied for will be awarded. “These are just applications,” said Pritz. “They are not yet approved, and some of them may not be. None of them will enter the Internet until they have gone through a rigorous review process.” That review will include determining whether they are in conflict with trademarks and intellectual property, or are a threat to the “security and stability” of the Internet because of their similarity to other TLDs, Beckstrom said.
The gTLD plan has drawn protests and threats of lawsuits from opponents, who claim that the new name spaces will force companies to make “defensive registrations” of domains based on their trademarks and brands in every domain space to prevent trademark infringement, “phishing” attacks on customers using look-alike domain names, and “cyber-squatting” on domain names by individuals or companies seeking to turn an exorbitant profit in selling them. The Association of National Advertisers has been one of the most vocal critics of the plan, organizing lobbying efforts to block the process, and claiming that ICANN had ignored concerns over intellectual property issues.
Beckstrom, however, said that “to suggest that the community wasn’t listened to (on intellectual property concerns) just lacks credibility.” He cited the multiple levels of review each application must go through for approval, and the standards that registrars will be held to protect intellectual property holders’ rights. “If a new gTLD operator demonstrates a pattern of abuse,” he said, ICANN can take the TLD back.
There were a few applications that immediately drew the attention of those concerned with "defensive" registration. Three companies applied for the rights to the .sucks domain, for example—opening up the potential, if approved, that companies would have to register their own names with the winning applicant to avoid competitors (or unhappy customers) from creating sites based on their names.
When asked specifically about the .sucks application, Beckstrom said, “I can’t as the neutral administration of this program have any opinion on the applicants, but anyone who has comments or wishes to file objections may do so.”