The peak international regulator for domain names, ICANN has approved a groundbreaking plan to increase the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) from the current 22, such as .com, .net and .org, to customizable ones which could include brand names, different languages or scripts.
The move paves the way for companies to extend their branding as a URL suffix so expect .qantas or .apple to be the new black from next year. Franchise systems may find the new names attractive too: ".bakersdelight" or ".actioncoach" have obvious applicability as branding too.
Applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012.
"ICANN has opened the internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind," said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.
Under the new provisions, internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, opening up internet opportunities in areas such as the Middle East which have been precluded from using domains in their own scripts.
It also opens the floodgates to commercial branding opportunities for companies.
Melbourne IT CEO Theo Hnarakis, warned "as a big brand, you ignore it at your peril".
Non-commercial and community sites will get similar opportunities allowing for creative opportunities for tourism and commerce. However, just like domain names, issues of cybersquattting and trademark was are set to ensue. ICANN will be preparing for a deluge of applications which will be accepted for just 90 days from January. Those that miss the window of opportunity could have to wait years for another chance.
Pricing has yet to be fully detailed but the application fee for new gTLDs is US$185,000, and a list of criteria must be met before ICANN will allow a firm to have its own domain.
It will cost the company a further $25,000 annual fee to maintain the domain and the application form is understood to be a very thorough 360 pages. ICANN will soon start a global campaign to explain the changes globally.