Within a year, people searching for a car, having a baby, or looking for a book could find themselves on a website ending with .auto, .baby, .book, or .read.
Those are just some of the 1,930 names submitted as part of an experimental program allowing the introduction of an unlimited number of new Internet addresses that was launched by the group that runs the Internet’s domain-name system.
After years of anticipation and negotiation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Wednesday revealed the list of possible new generic top-level domain names that could be added to the Internet. It likely will take several months before any of these new names are added to the domain name system, and not all will make the cut after ICANN conducts a lengthy review of each applicant’s financial, organizational, and technical ability to run an Internet address.
Applicants were required to pay $185,000 to cover the cost of evaluating each application and will likely face hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs to operate their new strings.
“Throughout its history, with each new advance in technology, the Internet has renewed itself through a continuing cycle of fresh ideas and creativity,” ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said during a news conference from London. “Now a powerful change is coming. We’re standing at the cusp of a new era of online innovations.”
Beckstrom noted that the applications came from 60 countries, although 911 of them were from North America alone and Africa sent a mere 17 applications. In addition, 116 applications were for internationalized domain names that use non-Roman characters such as Arabic.
Amazon and Google have invested big in the domain-name program. Amazon applied for more than 70 names; Google is seeking more than 100. They applied for some of the same names including .game, .movie, .music, .kids, play, and .search.
In addition to names directly associated with the company such as .google and .youtube, Google sought a wide range of other names such .fun, .goo .here, .home, .mom, .page, .rsvp, and .talk. Amazon also applied for a long list of extensions including .book, .got, .hot, .joy, .read, and .song in addition to .amazon and .kindle.
Microsoft was more restrained, applying for about a dozen names linked to many of the company’s products including .bing, .windows, and .xbox. However, it will be competing against Google for .docs.
One company absent from the list of applicants is Facebook, which didn’t even apply for .facebook. Also absent were major broadband and wireless providers such as AT&T and Verizon, although Comcast submitted an application for .comcast.
There were at least 231 names sought by two or more applicants, with .app, .art, .baby, .book, .llc, .movie, .music, .sale, and .web among the most popular. Those who have applied for the same names are being encouraged by ICANN to negotiate among themselves first. If such talks break down, ICANN will auction the names to the highest bidder.
There are some controversial names, including .gay, .sex, and .sucks. When asked about such names, Beckstrom said that ICANN is the “neutral evaluator” and is not judging individual names submitted, but he encouraged those, including governments, who have concerns to file comments or raise a formal objection with ICANN.
Even before the program was launched in January, groups representing major trademark holders and advertisers raised criticisms about the costs of having to defend their trademarks if so many new names were introduced to the Internet. Still, many major corporations applied for their own trademarks, including Best Buy, Ford, General Motors and Netflix, as well as strings related to their products such as Bridgestone and Goodyear, which applied for their own names as well as .tires.
“Now that the scope and content of applications are known, ICANN will have another opportunity to address intellectual-property concerns, and must do so,” said Scott Bain, chief litigation counsel for the Software & Information Industry Association. “The rights-protection mechanisms that ICANN has required ... applicants to implement are inadequate.”
ICANN's complicated process for reviewing each application also has raised some concerns. ICANN will evaluate the 1,930 applications in batches no bigger than 500 and said on Wednesday that it will take four to five months to evaluate each batch of names. This means that it could take nearly two years before the last group of names is released into the domain-name system.
Some applicants worry they could be harmed if they end up in the last batch of applications, said Josh Bourne, managing partner with Fair Winds Partners, which advised several companies that applied for a top-level domain, including Safeway and Wal-Mart.
This is the third time ICANN has introduced new top-level extensions to the domain-name system, but it is clearly the most ambitious effort. The previous rounds introduced a handful of names such as .biz, .info, and .travel, and none have yet to dent the popularity of .com.