The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit, non-governmental organization that brought us the current Internet domain name system. ICANN brought us top level domain names featuring .com, .org, .net, .gov, and recently .xxx. Until this week, the list of possible top-level domains has remained rather short and certainly finite. Thursday, ICANN began accepting applications for generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, which provide the opportunity for a limitless amount of top-level domains. For a mere $185,000 a business can license a new gTLD for 10 years, with a $10,000 per year fee. For example, Coke can license .coke, to support URLs such as www.buy.coke. The new gTLDs also support non-Latin language scripts like Arabic and Chinese. ICANN believes that the new system will solve the current shortage of useful URLs. The new system is likely to open a pandora’s box of new domains, and over time .com could become a relic of the past.
Not everyone is thrilled with the new system. The U.S. government is worried that gTLDs will make it difficult to detect and track online fraud. It fears that the new names will create consumer confusion which scamsters can then take advantage of. Businesses will have to spend a lot more money protecting their brands across many more TLDs. The new names will be costly to businesses in other ways as well. Companies like Google will have to modify its algorithms to accommodate the changes caused by new TLDs. There is also fear that the gTLDs will wrest control of the Internet and Web away from the U.S. and provide businesses and foreign governments with more influence over how it is managed.