So far internet domain suffixes are .com, .org, .edu, and nationality abbreviations, like .de for Deutschland and .au for Australia. But very soon, they will multiply into a host of specific subject-specific domains:
The pillar of the basic Web address – the trusty .com domain – is about to face vast new competition that will dramatically transform the Web as we know it. New Web sites, with more subject-specific, sometimes controversial suffixes, will soon populate the online galaxy, such as .eco, .love, .god, .sport, .gay or .kurd.
This massive expansion to the Internet’s domain name system will either make the Web more intuitive or create more cluttered, maddening experiences. No one knows yet. But with an infinite number of naming possibilities, an industry of Web wildcatters is racing to grab these potentially lucrative territories with addresses that are bound to provoke.
Who gets to run .abortion Web sites – people who support abortion rights or those who don’t? Which individual or mosque can run the .islam or .muhammad sites? Can the Ku Klux Klan own .nazi on free speech grounds, or will a Jewish organization run the domain and permit only educational Web sites – say, remember.nazi or antidefamation.nazi? And who’s going to get .amazon – the Internet retailer or Brazil?
The decisions will come down to a little-known nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, Calif., whose international board of directors approved the expansion in 2008 but has been stuck debating how best to run the program before launching it. Now, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is on the cusp of completing those talks in March or April and will soon solicit applications from companies and governments that want to propose and operate the new addresses.
This week, hundreds of investors, consultants and entrepreneurs are expected to converge in San Francisco for the first “.nxt” conference, a three-day affair featuring seminars on ICANN’s complicated application guidelines. The conference’s Web site, which has a list of applicants, is not without a sense of humor: “Join the Internet land rush!” a headline screams, above a photograph of the Tom Cruise character galloping on a horse in the movie “Far and Away,” the 1992 film about giveaways out West in the late 19th century.
These online territories are hardly free. The price tag to apply is $185,000, a cost that ensures only well-financed organizations operate the domains and cuts out many smaller grass-roots organizations, developing countries or dreamers, according to critics. (Rejectees get some of the application fee returned.) That’s on top of the $25,000 annual fee.
Presumably, if we can get all porn onto a .sex or .porn domain, it would make it easier to block. Do you see any challenges or unintended consequences for this?