ICANN Votes to Add Domain Suffixes

SINGAPORE — The dust hasn’t even settled on the approval of the controversial .XXX TLD domain name suffix, but that hasn’t stopped ICANN from announcing plans to dramatically increase the number of extensions from the current 22.

The global Internet body has voted to allow the creation of new generic website domain suffixes (gTLD) in almost any word and language that could include more adult tags like .PORN and others.

ICANN said it will be taking applications for 90 days beginning Jan. 12, at a hefty sum of $185,000. Initial evaluation results are expected to be published in Nov. 2012. The first new extensions are expected to be operational by 2013.

The group expects corporation and cities to be the first to petition for the new suffixes but they have to prove they have a legitimate claim to the name they’re buying.

Fees will be used to cover costs in developing and processing the new gTLD applications as well as fighting legal battles that may arise from parties who fail to get the domains they want.

ICANN plans to auction off domains if multiple parties have legitimate claims. However, it expects companies will make deals among themselves to avoid a public auction.

"This is the start of a whole new phase for the Internet," said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN's board of directors. He added, "Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free."

The moves marks six years of negotiations and is the biggest change to the overall system since ".com" made its debut in 1984. The plan has been in limbo mostly because of concerns that new suffixes could infringe on trademarks and copyrights.

"ICANN has opened the Internet's addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination," said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for ICANN.

He added, "No one can predict where this historic decision will take us."

ICANN expects there to be several hundred new gTLDs created that could include such addresses as .google, .coke and others. Some analysts believe that number could reach 1,000 or more.

There are currently 22 gTLDs, as well as about 250 country-level domain names such as .uk or .de.

The .XXX TLD was added to the Internet’s root server in April after ICANN gave its blessing to the ICM Registry for the new sponsored top-level domain. Currently .XXX is in its Sunrise period, where trademark owners can prevent cybersquatting by registering trademarked domain names. General availability is expected to start sometime in September.

According to a recent XBIZ Research poll, more than one-third of adult entertainment industry professionals plan to buy .XXX domain names, either to defensively protect their existing brands/trademarks or to develop and market new websites.

ICM Registry's chief marketing officer Greg Dumas told XBIZ, "We re delighted that ICANN has made this step forward as it will promote the use of directly relevant new top level suffixes in the minds of the consumer. Just like .XXX, new domains like .bank, .movie, etc. will get the consumer directly to the content they are looking for and perhaps with some of the safeguards included in .XXX so the user has a more predictable experience."  

ICANN said in a statement that it will mount a global publicity campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities of new domain names.