In June, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the regulatory body that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, approved a plan to expand on generic top-level domain (gTLD) extensions. The plan will soon allow virtually anyone to apply for their own custom gTLD suffixes. In addition to the current limited number (22, at last count) of defined gTLDs (e.g., .com, .org, .net, .info, .edu, .gov, etc.), the new plan will reorganize the Internet to allow for there to be “.anything.” The gTLDs can be as long as 63 characters and can consist of almost any word in any language.
Clearly, this landmark move signals a watershed moment in the development of the Internet. With the ability to create “.anything” domain names, the organization of the Internet now has the potential to become much more confusing, a fertile breeding ground for increased cybersquatting and trademark infringement. Many commentators believe this new expansion will dramatically change the ways in which web surfers use and approach Internet websites. At the same time, the new ICANN initiative will open up creative branding opportunities for companies, municipalities and other owners of intellectual property. It is anticipated that many corporations and businesses will apply for gTLDs based on their brands. The ability to use non-Latin characters (such as Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese) also will increase the number of new gTLDs. Industry analysts predict this new program will usher in 500 to 1,000 new gTLDs, mostly reflecting the names of companies and products, but also cities and generic names like .bank and .sport.