Touting the advent of a new age of online creativity, the organization responsible for the Internet address system has approved a measure that will allow both companies and organizations to apply for new, ‘top-level’ domain names for use in conjunction with the more than 20 domains already in existence.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, voted in favor of the measure during a meeting in Singapore. The concept had been under review and discussion for a few years already, and it certainly has implications for retailers and online merchants.
“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN’s chairman of the board. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”
The vote opens the door for the use of even more domain names beyond the 22 traditional addresses (such as .com, .gov, .org., etc.) that most people are familiar with. These so-called top-level domains will offer entities personalization and customization in their online branding.
For example, the plan would make it possible for a city such as London to create and register a ‘.London’ domain. Smaller towns and municipalities could do the same.
Companies, and in particular retailers, would enjoy even greater flexibility since the plan would enable them to not only create top-level domains centered around their brand name, but their particular product or merchandise category as well. Nikon, for instance, could create a ‘.Nikon’ domain and another one called ‘.cameras’ and even build a network of personalized sub-domains for individual customers (i.e. JohnSmith.Nikon).
Of course, all of this creative potential isn’t going to be free. The cost to apply for a new top-level domain will likely start around $185,000, which raises the concern that only the wealthiest companies and/or government entities (if there are actually any of the latter still left) will be able to get in on the action. Specific top-level domains that could only be used by a single company, such as ‘.HomeDepot’ are expected to be even pricier, as will those affixed to product categories or cities and towns which provide the potential for an infinite number of interconnected sub-domains.
As part of the vote, ICANN approved both a timeline and a description of the application process. New applications for top-level domains will be accepted between January and April of 2012, after which they’ll be reviewed using a number of different criteria including financial stability and technical capabilities. Approvals may come as early as November of that year with the new domains going into operation as soon as the first quarter of 2013.
Confused? Don’t worry, we were too. It’s definitely a complicated matter, but one that if waded through properly, could prove to be very important for merchants everywhere. Leave us your thoughts and comments below!