Expanding Top Level Domain Names – Yea or Nay?

www8ball.jpgIt was decidedly so, as of a unanimous vote held this week, that the rules and regulations for generic top level domain names (gTLDs) be loosened and relaxed, making it possible to register any organized collection of letters as a TLD. For example, with this newly allowed flexibility, eBay could be given the opportunity to manage the domain, ‘.ebay’. Right now, there are a limited number of top level domain names available, the most reconizable being ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.edu’ etc.

There are however, a few stipulations that ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has lain down, setting some solid groundwork for this easing of the TLD reigns. One being, that applicants for new domain names must demonstrate superior skill capacity in the areas of organization, financial prowess and operational and technical understanding with respect to running a website.

It will be interesting to see what this new flexibility in TLDs will do for the fervently debated ‘.XXX’ domain, being as the essence of this vote is in accepting any string of letters as a TLD. ICANN has rejected the implementation of a ‘.XXX’ domain for adult oriented sites three times so far, religious groups in agreement, citing that the acceptance of this domain would open the flood gates and lead to the legitimization of pornography, or as The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, puts it, the ‘.XXX’ TLD would provide “…a haven for illegal and offensive content.”. Though advocates of the controversial TLD insist that it will make it much easier to regulate the content of these sites. It’s hard to say how ICANN will react to the application of a ‘.XXX’ when the inevitable next time rolls around.

ICANN’s decision will hopefully allow, not only for further personalization options for the site, but also increased creativity, originality and innovation coupled with a focus consumer choice and competition with the domain name space. They expect hundreds and hundreds of new domains to be registered quickly after they make their grand appearance at the end of 2009.

And why not at the bargain bin price of $500,000 bones:

Prices to register the new domain names, expected to be anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000, would most likely prohibit individuals from applying for new domain names. ICANN said the high fees would allow it to recoup the approximately $20 million it expects to spend on implementation of the new policy.

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I guess we will find out soon how this decision will effect the world wide web. Some people believe that this will begin to change the very framework of domain name services; welcome more creativity and brand new ideas. Others however, aren’t sure if a move like this is necessary, and pose the question as to whether or not customers will even want these flexible TLDs to be a part of their website. Only time and trial will tell – so it’s a good thing for domain name tasting:

The ICANN board also approved actions to stop the practice of domain name tasting, which allows a registrar to register a domain name and place pay-per-click ads on it for up to five days to determine whether it will make money from those ads. If so, the registrar can then register the domain name for $6 per year. If not, the registrar must return the domain to ICANN.

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You can check out the ICANN website to find out more about their decision, policies, expectations and applications with respect to this decision.