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20 July 2012

The New Domain Names

It's the biggest shakeup of the domain name system since the popularisation of the web.

Starting next year we'll find our familiar domain strings - '.com', '.co.uk', '.net' and '.org' and so on - supplemented by hundreds of others.

So what are these new suffixes? How many will there be? Who has applied for what? And which companies are battling for the rights to own '.music', '.play', '.app', '.cloud' and '.shop'?

All this, and more, is in this week's Micro Mart magazine, issue 1218.

Here are a couple of extracts from my article:

So, what's changed? Well, now you can apply for a bespoke top-level domain string. Any name can be proposed, although there are guidelines on what's likely to be accepted. International languages are supported, so the string can be in Chinese, Arabic or Cyrillic.

Before you get too excited it's not a low-cost operation. In fact, ICANN's price is deliberately set very high to deter 'timewasters'. First, there's an upfront fee of $185,000, followed by an annual fee of $25,000. In addition there's the possibility you'll have to reserve some money for lawyers’ fees (more on this later).

And taking control of your own gTLD is a weighty responsibility. It equates to owning a piece of the Internet. So, apart from the financial side of things, ICANN will also perform checks on the nature and strength of each applicant. In the end only a relatively small number of medium to large sized organisations will end up operating one or more custom TLDs.

Integral to the ICANN process is a seven month objection period, which commenced on 'Reveal Day'. You may be surprised to know objections are not limited to other applicants. Anyone with suitable grounds can submit a formal objection, for example if they think an organisation will misrepresent the domain string in question. The ICANN site contains detailed information on how to file an objection.

ICANN has allocated around a third of the $350m so far gathered to handle objection resolutions. It sounds a tidy sum, but will it be enough? Many of these battles are bound to be lengthy and expensive. Cash-rich organisations can afford top-class intellectual property lawyers. With so much at stake the sums of money thrown at securing certain strings will be staggering - it's a great time to be a lawyer.

And if you really can't wait to find out, visit ICANN's website for the Reveal Day list of who applied for what.

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