ICANN to launch land grab in cyberspace

Articles Written by Tania Juric

Are you aware of the new generic Top Level Domains launch by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)? It has been claimed that this launch will revolutionise and change the face of the internet. This note explains what all the fuss is about.

Many new generic Top level Domains are about to enter cyberspace. To explain this, we must first explain what a top-level domain (TLD) is. Every domain name ends with a TLD. It is the two or more letters that come after the dot. There are two types of TLDs: generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .com, .gov and .edu; and country code TLDs (ccTLDs) such as .au, .nz and .eu.

The new gTLD program is an initiative that will enable the introduction of new gTLDs into the domain name space. New gTLDs could include, for example, .car, .games and .computer. ICANN has stated that the aim of the program is to promote competition in the domain name market whilst ensuring internet security and stability.

Currently there are only 21 gTLDs and 260+ ccTLDs. It is now known how many new gTLDs will be granted. ICANN expects that the increase in the number of gTLDs will change the way people find information on the internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence. Importantly, under the current guidelines there is no requirement for an applicant to hold a trade mark in order to apply for a new gTLD. The next version of the Applicant Guidebook was due for publication on 15 April 2011.

It is expected that the ICANN board will finalise the Applicant Guidebook by June 2011 and that applications will open in October 2011. There will be a limited window of approximately three months. The application fee for each gTLD is US$185,000. The application process will be rigorous and complex. Applying for a gTLD is not the same as simply buying a domain name, as the applicant is in fact applying to become a registry for its own chosen gTLD. It must be able to ensure that this "registry" operates within ICANN's domain name system. ICANN warns that this involves a number of significant responsibilities. Detailed technical information will be required in each application.

Any company considering an application for a gTLD should start preparing now.

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