After the slow trickle of new domains over the past decade, ICANN is set to open the floodgates next year, with hundreds of new domains set for approval in 2013.
Next year, the Internet will play host to a group of new domains. Familiar domains, such as .com and .net, will become less prevalent as new domains open up for various uses.
ICANN, the organization that oversees the DNS services and addressing system for the Internet, plans to give out new domains to any organization which can afford a registration fee of $185,000. This means that companies like Microsoft, Coca Cola, Nike, cities like New York and London, or any other group that can come up with the registration fee can run their own domain, without worrying if a certain address has been used already.
More than 1,900 applications have already been received, and not just for business names; some of the applications include city-based domains like .NYC or .berlin, industry-specific domains like .cars, and even domains based on web-slang. With so many applications, there are, of course, some duplicates; .africa and .eco have both had at least two applications put in for them, but even if only 10% of the current applications go live next year, the number of domains on the Internet will double.
This is not the first time that new domains have been added; domains such as .info and .biz were added previously in 2000 and 2004, but not all of the domains added then have been successful or widely adopted. Where .biz and .info took off, relatively speaking, .museum and .coop have remained largely unused. The difference this time is that there will be hundreds of new domains added, rather than just a few.
Another difference is that those whose applications are approved will have control over the entire domain. They will decide who can and cannot receive an address on that domain, as well as how much to charge for that address. The potential returns on these investments have garnered some serious financial backing for some of the groups. A start-up company called Donuts Inc, for example, has claimed to have raised roughly $100 million to pay for the registration fees for 307 domains and create the infrastructure required to run those domains.
The problem, however, is the same problem that plagued the previous expansions. That problem, namely, is consumer awareness and understanding. The .com domain has remained dominant for so long partly because it was so widely adopted and is used so frequently that it is what most users immediately think of when thinking about an internet address, and it will most likely remain the dominant domain. Also, smaller companies may have a harder time marketing their domains, whereas a company like Microsoft, with brand recognition and a loyal customer base, will see much better returns and traffic on their domains.
We’ll keep our eyes open and report on any interesting developments as ICANN prepares to unleash a torrent of new domains on the Internet.