ICANN Approves New Top-Level Domain Names For Brands

This afternoon the regulatory body that controls Internet domain names – ICANN voted in Singapore for the end of restrictions for domain names. From January 12, 2012 any company or organization will be able to take suffixes other than “.com” and “.net”.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

The new domain names will not be restricted to Latin characters written by users of English and other Western European languages but will allow other scripts, benefiting users of other languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors, said: “This is the start of a whole new phase for the Internet. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free.”

The decision follows six years of negotiations and it is the biggest change to the system since 1984 when “.com” was introduced. The expansion plan had been delayed mainly due to concerns that new suffixes could violate copyrights and trademarks.

Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT, which manages online brands for clients such as Volvo, LEGO and GlaxoSmithKline, said: “It will allow corporations to better take control of their brands. For example, .apple or .ipad would take customers right to those products.”

Japanese electronics giant Canon, for instance, has already announced it plans to apply for rights to use domain names ending with .canon. It will cost USD 185,000 to apply, and individuals or organizations will have to show a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. ICANN is taking on hundreds of consultants to whom it will outsource the job of adjudicating claims.

“I think we’ll see much more of that going on than see auctions generating circuses,” Dengate Thrush said. “But there is that prospect that there will be a couple of identical applicants and applications.”

It is expected that from 500 to 1,000 new domain names will appear, mostly for companies and products, but they will also include cities and generic names such as .bank or .hotel. Groups have formed to back “.sport” for sporting sites, and two conservationist groups separately are seeking the right to use an “.eco” suffix.

Now there exist 290 country suffixes, such as “.jp” for Japan and “.fr” for France. They are usually restricted to groups or individuals with a presence in the countries. There are also 22 open names that include recent additions such as “.tel” for telecommunications. Suffix “.xxx” was introduced for porno sites in March, but a lot of them refused to use it fearing that it will make it easier for governments to ban them.

ICANN said it would soon begin a global campaign to educate people about the changes and opportunities they afford. Applications for new generic top-level domains will be accepted from January 12, 2012, to April 12, 2012, and the estimated evaluation fee is $185,000. (Click here to see ICANN’s fact sheet on the new GTLDs (PDF).)

Adrian Kinderis, chief executive of AusRegistry International, which helps companies to register domains and manages names such as “.au” for Australia, said: “It’s a significant undertaking. We’re calling it the Olympic bid. But it’s worth it for corporations that have suffered from things like trademark infringement, and can now carve out a niche on the internet.”

“The board’s very enthusiastic about providing support for applicants from developing areas where the evaluation fee or access to technical expertise might be somewhat of a bar,” ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz told reporters after the meeting in Singapore.

“Today we made history. It’s the dawn of a new age. The Internet addressing system has just been opened up,” Rod Beckstrom, ICANN President and CEO, said at a news conference. According to ICANN’s statement will start a global publicity campaign to provide awareness of the opportunities of new domain names. [via Money Control, NWI Times and Mashable ]

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