SINGAPORE (AFP) – The Internet’s global coordinator on Monday approved the creation of website addresses ending in corporate names, triggering one of the biggest ever shakeups in how the web operates.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal at a meeting in Singapore despite fears the shift would cause some confusion and favour large companies.
“This is the biggest change to domain names since the creation of dotcom 26 years ago,” said Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services, a California-based company that provides online branding advice.
Under the changes, businesses will no longer be restricted to the list of generic top level domains (gTLDs) that include .com, .net and .org when they apply to register a website address.
Industry observers say global giants such as Apple, Toyota and BMW could be in the vanguard of launching websites with their own domain names, ending in “.apple”, “.toyota” and “.bmw”, as could a city or a trademark.
ICANN chairman Peter Thrush said at a news conference the new naming system will be a “tremendous opportunity for people to take control of this aspect of their branding and develop it in their own way.”
The ICANN board voted 13-1 in favour of the change, which was first proposed in 2005, with two members abstaining.
George Sadowsky, the lone board member who voted against the move, said “I believe that it is not ICANN’s job to influence the choice of winners and losers in such competitions, and that is implicitly what we will be doing.”
ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom said applications for the new web suffixes will open on January 12 next year and close 90 days later.
“The first possible time at which some of the applications could be approved would be late in 2012,” Beckstrom told reporters.
ICANN will embark on a global communication campaign to spread awareness of the changes but about 120 parties have already publicly expressed their interest in the programme, he said.
“If you scroll through one of those lists… You’ll probably see some major brand owners, some major companies in the world, some major brands, cities, regions and other different types of communities,” Beckstrom said.
Adrian Kinderis, chief executive of domain name registry services provider AusRegistry International, said the new system will allow companies to protect their trademarks in cyberspace.
“It will be an exciting period ahead,” he said.
ICANN board member Sebastien Bachollet, who was in favour of the change, said “some people feel that the new gTLDs will cause confusion.”
“I trust we have the tools to ensure the phase of stress will be brief,” he added.
ICANN, a non-profit body managing the Domain Name System and Internet Protocol addresses that form the technical backbone of the Web, is holding a global meeting in Singapore this week to discuss a range of matters.
The corporate domain names won’t come cheap.
It will cost a company $185,000 just to apply and there are a number of criteria that must be met before ICANN will give the nod for a firm to own the domain name of its choice.
The fee is needed to recoup the costs associated with the new gTLD programme and to ensure that it is fully funded, ICANN said.
It would also weed out opportunistic applicants seeking to resell domain names for a profit after buying them cheaply, a problem in the earlier days of the Internet.
Only “established corporations, organisations, or institutions in good standing” may apply for a new gTLD, according to ICANN guidelines.
ICANN will not consider applications from individuals or sole proprietorships.
Antony Van Couvering, chief executive of Britain’s Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd, which helps companies buy and operate new generic domains, said the ICANN decision “marks an historic shift in the way consumers, brands and communities will interact on the Web.”