Nishant Bora
Jun 22, 2011

The end of “.com” monopoly; You get to choose your own suffix!


The initial purpose of a domain name was to provide an address for computers on the Internet. Just like we have postal addresses for buildings in the real-physical world, domain names act as ‘addresses’ for computers in the virtual  world. With the increase of commercial activity on the Internet, a domain name is also used as a business identifier.


In the commercial field, each domain name owner provides information or services, which are associated with such domain name. A domain name is easy to remember and use, and is chosen as an instrument of commercial enterprise. Consequently a domain name as an address must, of necessity, is peculiar and unique and where a domain name is used in connection with a business, the value of maintaining an exclusive identity becomes critical. These domain names are broadly administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).


What do the components of a domain name signify?


Example: In the domain name, “.com” indicates the network and “patexia” as the sub-network. The domain name at the extreme right is called the “Top Level Domain” (TLD) and any domain to the left of the TLD and separated by a “.” (Dot) is the Second Level Domain (SLD).


A generic top-level domain (gTLD) is one of the categories of top-level domains (TLDs). From being an initial handful of them, presently, there are 22 gTLDs such as .com, .info, .net, .org, etc. however, these are designated as restricted, because registrations within them require proof of eligibility within the guidelines set for each.


Over the years, ICANN periodically received many proposals for establishment of new top-level domains and also proposing a variety of models ranging from adoption of policies for unrestricted gTLDs. Thus, an Applicant Guidebook was prepared, which is a comprehensive guide for applicants that describes the new gTLD program’s requirements and evaluation processes.


The Guidebook went through seven significant revisions to incorporate more than 1,000 comments from the public. Strong efforts were made to address the concerns of all interested parties, and to ensure that the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet are not compromised. Eventually, on 20th June 2011, ICANN’s board voted to end most restrictions on the allowed generic top-level domain (gTLD) suffixes from the 22 currently available extensions. This will allow companies to register their brands as generic top-level domain names (TLDs). For instance, Microsoft could apply to have a TLD such as ‘.msn’ and Apple apply for ‘.mac’. ICANN will begin accepting applications for new gTLDs on January 12, 2012.


In implementing the new policy, the ICANN board rejected advice from the world’s governments, including their recommendations regarding trademark protection. ICANN expects the new rules to significantly change the face of the Internet. About 500–1000 new gTLDs are being predicted, mostly reflecting names of companies and products, but also cities as well as generic names like .bank and .sport.


Few believe that this move will create significant challenges in combating online fraud and cyber-squatting. For instance, if there is a rich corporation, such as Microsoft, then it could buy the ‘.msn’ suffix and build its own island on the internet space. With this, the customers would know that only legitimate Microsoft sites would end with ‘.msn’.


However, it is also feared that the enormous expansion of suffixes would lead to businesses incurring extra costs in registering a site with their trade mark as the number of suffixes would go out of bounds.


In the implementation of this process, key beneficiaries are likely to be the internet registrars who will assist in registrations. ICANN has set a $185,000 fee per suffix. Not just the whooping sum, but cumbersome registration formalities are to be complied with before the applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012. In the light of this, smaller corporations or individuals might just remain unaffected by these changes.


"ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind,"said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN. Well, so do we!