What’s in a (domain) name?

New top-level domain names are about to be released � and whoever controls them gets to control the content within them

As claims go, �the Internet is about to change forever� is up there with the biggest of them. It was made by Rod Beckstrom, CEO of Icann, the company that decides which new domains can be added to the Web.

From early next year, over 1700 top-level domains could be online, with Icann releasing documents showing the domain names that 1930 organisations have applied to control. Of course, in each case only one can be successful. It�s rather like bidding for the Olympics � only the domain names have the potential to be far more profitable and valuable in the long run

Top of the list is .app, which 13 companies (including Google and Amazon) have reportedly applied for. Then comes .home and .inc (11 applications each), followed by .art (10 applications), and .book, .blog, .llc, and .shop (9 each).

Each application cost $185,000, but clearly companies think it�s money well-spent, with the likes of Google and Amazon bidding for multiple domains. And it�s hardly surprising when you consider the implications of a successful bid.

Controlling the content

As Charles Arthur, writing in the Guardian, points out: �Those put in charge of allotting such domains will have complete power over whether a company or individual can apply for a website or domain name within them � so that if Amazon was to control .book, it could deny a rival such as Waterstones the chance to create waterstones.book.�

It means Icann has a fair amount of responsibility to ensure the process is fair and completely above board, so it is hardly surprising that it anticipates the whole process will take about 18 months to complete.

So goodbye, plain old .com, .com.au. .co.uk, .net, .org and all the rest of you. Hello, .kids, .love and .pizza. Whether the new domain names indeed change the Internet forever remains to be seen. Whether it changes it for the better is perhaps a more pressing question.


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