The Internet is moving way beyond dot-com.
Websites will soon be able to end with anything from “.shop” to “.canon” after the group that manages Internet addresses approved what it called a historic change in a statement on its website today. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which until now allowed 22 suffixes including “.com” and “.org,” will accept requests for almost any word in any language from Jan. 12 to April 12.
The move may help prevent cybersquatting, the practice of registering domain names and selling them to trademark owners at a profit. Large businesses may have to buy addresses to keep their brands from being hijacked, which costs $500,000 per company, estimated the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, whose members include Morgan Stanley and Hewlett-Packard Co.
“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of Icann’s Board of Directors, said in the statement. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”
Applications will cost $185,000, and the first of these “top level domain names” won’t go live until the end of 2012, Adrian Kinderis, a member of Icann’s advisory council, said in an interview today.
Canon, Deloitte and Hitachi Ltd. (6501) are among companies that have expressed interest in company domain names, while generic names will be auctioned to the highest bidders, Kinderis said.
Icann, based in Marina del Rey, California, has authorized small numbers of new domain names in the past, such as the approval for the .xxx domain for adult content websites in March. In 2009, the group also allowed domain names in languages other than English, such as “.ru” for Russian sites.
None has approached the dominance of dot-com, which accounts for 71 percent of all Web registrations since 2001.
Last year, dot-com had 89.2 million address registrations, dot-net had 13.5 million, and dot-org had 8.3 million. All three are so-called “legacy domains” that were created in 1985 before the formation of Icann. The next most popular domains were dot-info with 6 million registrations in 2010 and dot-biz with 2 million.
The hijacking of Web addresses cost large companies a total of $746 million, according to estimates this year by the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, an industry group in Washington whose members also include Wells Fargo & Co.
“So far we’ve seen relatively little corporate interest” in getting additional domain names based on brands, said Alan Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association, whose board of directors includes Microsoft Corp. and PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito-Lay. “There’s a significant marketing challenge. These companies have spent so much time and money directing their customers to their sites.”
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