Web Regulators Approve .Anything Domain Names

Dennis Faas's picture

The Internet's governing body has given final approval to expand website addresses from .com, .net and .org to virtually anything. It could mean a major boost for the web, but may also lead to a barrage of court cases.

The decision involved top level domains (TLD), the final section of a website address. At the moment these are strictly controlled, with just 22 international domains (the best known being .com) plus 250 or so country-specific domains (such as .ca for Canada).

That system has been overhauled by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers. It's just voted in favor of a new system to take effect early next year that means almost any ending can be used. The logic is that it will infinitely expand the range of website addresses that can be used and reduce clashes.

$185,000 for Web Domain Application Fee

The system will now run very differently than before. At the moment, somebody wanting to buy a secondary level domain pays an annual fee that's usually well under $50, and it's usually a case of first-come first-served, with complaints about trademark infringement dealt with through the courts.

Those wanting to buy a top level domain, however, will need to put up $185,000 for an application fee and a further $25,000 a year. The application process itself will be much more complex, with a 360-page application form, and would-be owners will have to demonstrate they have a genuine claim to use a particular term. (Source: theregister.co.uk)

Generic Terms Likely Source of Dispute

Part of the money used in the application fee will be set aside for a legal fund for ICANN to defend the seemingly-inevitable legal challenges.

While trademarks of multinational firms should be simple enough -- don't think you'll get away with registering .microsoft -- there may be problems with generic terms that are protected in particular contexts.

For example, it's already been noted that it could be tricky to rule whether said software giant has more claim to .windows than a major windows and doors firm.

Applications Subject to Vote for Final Approval

Under the new rules, an ICANN panel will vote to approve or reject particular applications.

If it receives multiple applications for the same domain, and concludes that more than one applicant has a genuine claim, there will be an auction. However, ICANN believes that in such cases, chances are the applicants will make a private deal with one side effectively paying off the other, rather than risk the price getting out of hand in the auction. (Source: wsj.com)

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