Internet domain names: Anything goes – for a price

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Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, The Associated Press photo

Board members of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are seen during a vote in Paris, Thursday, June 26, 2008. The Internet’s key oversight agency relaxed rules Thursday to permit the introduction of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new Internet domain names to join “.com,” making the first sweeping changes in the network’s 25-year-old addressing system. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The way we navigate the Internet is about to change.

ICANN, the Internet’s “top-level” domain name regulator, voted unanimously Thursday to relax the rules on domain names like “.com” and “.net”, freeing new websites to use any extension imaginable — for a hefty price.

The new ruling allows companies or individuals to uniquely brand themselves like never before. Basically there are no restrictions, but applying for a new “unique” domain name will cost over $100,000. “We’re not putting any limitation on it. It’s an open process that people can bid for,” said Paul Twomey, Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

Twomey said the decision to liberalize domain names was made not because we’re running out, but to allow people in foreign countries to identify themselves in their own way, even in their own language.

Currently all domains are in Roman characters, but the new ruling would allow areas like Asia and the Middle East, where the Internet is relatively new and booming, to create new domains in their own scripts.

There is already interest in this by many U.S. companies like eBay and a group of New Yorkers who want to buy “.nyc”.

While $100,000 is a lot for the average Net user, this frees up the possibility of big business buying domains like “.smith” and “.jones”, then marketing sites with that suffix to the users who want to use those names in their URLs.

And then there’s sex. The effort to create an online “red light district” using the domain “.xxx” failed last year, but this decision opens the door to that possibility.

Expect a surge of new domain names to pop up in 2009, making our lives even more complicated.


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