The Board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced Thursday that they will be expanding the Internet landscape by offering the opportunity for individuals to register new top level domains (TLDs). The announcement comes from Paris where the ICANN board concluded its 32nd meeting.
Currently, there are 21 TLDs available for users to register their Website with. Most are familiar to people even only a passing knowledge of the Internet. Domain names like .com, .org and .net are part of the existing domains.
ICANN's ruling Thursday, however, allows potential users to apply to register for any TLD they choose. Speaking about the decision, Dr. Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN, believes opening up the domain registration ledger can only have positive consequences.
"It represents a whole new way for people to express themselves on the Net," said Twomey. "It's a massive increase in the 'real estate' of the Internet."
New domain names will not be sold to users, according to a statement from ICANN "- at least any costs that may be attached have not been publicly stated by ICANN.
Instead, anyone who wants to register a new domain name will submit an application to ICANN which will go through a vetting process and prove that they will be able to operate a TLD before being approved. ICANN suspects that after the initial top level domains application window is closed, more opportunities will come about in the future.
Applicants are not automatically guaranteed a trademark on their newly registered domain name. ICANN expects at least some of the new domain names to reflect the industry trying to register them. For example, .travel for travel Websites, .food or .restaurant for area restaurants isn't hard to imagine for companies looking to brand themselves more prominently on the Web.
Of course, it's only a matter of time until an applicant tries to register a new domain name that someone else finds offensive. ICANN already anticipates that this will happen and addresses the issue on their Website.
"Offensive names will be subject to an objection-based process based on public morality and order. This process will be conducted by an international arbitration body utilizing criteria drawing on provisions in a number of international treaties. ICANN will not be the decision maker on these objections."
It's a wise move for ICANN to remove itself from being the moral arbiter of potential domain names that will be controversial. And instead of coming under fire for allowing or not allowing domains like .sex, .porn or .gunsaregreat, for example, those decisions will be forwarded to another body of decision makers.
A representative of ICANN was unable to name the third party arbiter who will be making those decisions.