On June 20th 2011, ICANN(Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)’s Board of Directors made the decision to allow new generic top-level domains.
If that doesn’t make any sense to you, believe me, you are not alone. What is ICANN? What are generic top-level domains? How does this affect me?….. These are all very good questions. Let’s see if I can answer them.
First let’s take a look at ICANN. ICANN or (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit corporation founded in 1998 to help regulated internet domain addressing.
Domain addressing allows you to type what is called a friendly name e.g. lipeimagintion.info into your Internet Explorer, instead of a hard to keep track of “IP” number like 188.8.131.52, to get to a particular website or email.
Out on the internet there are huge indexes of every website and address. For everyone in the world to reach the same website at the same address these indexes must universal and kept up to date. There are certain criteria to keep these indexes from becoming too massive and unusable. This is where ICANN comes in. They decide the criteria by which websites are named.
Next, generic top-level domains or (gTLDs). gTLDs are the concept of adding an extension to the end of a domain name to make it more easily accessible in the huge indexes I mentioned earlier. When you look at the end of a websites address you see something like .com, .org, .net etc. Those are gTLDs. What they say is, “if the address ends with .com, it goes in the .com index”.
ICANN decides what gTLDs may be used. If everyone was able to add whatever extension they wanted to their site’s address, there would be no way to keep the indexes efficient. The internet would slow down and there could easily be inconsistencies of which website you get when you type in an address.
This brings us back to the topic. Right now there are 22 gTLDs that can be used when addressing a website. Many of them are very familiar to us. On June 20 2011, ICANN decided to open up gTLDs to many new extensions. They have made it available for groups or companies to apply for a personalized extension. These applications will be accepted between January 12 2012, and April 12 2012. According to ICANN’s latest press release, we will start seeing these personalized domains on the web in late 2012.
Finally, how does this affect you? For the average web browser, there will be more extensions to remember when looking for a particular site. This means checking your Internet Explorers address bar more frequently to make sure you are not on a “spoofed” site.
If you are the owner of a website, this means there will be a lot more possibilities for similar addresses. For instance let’s say you have a website and the address is matlipe.com. To make sure people looking for you site actually find it, you also purchased lipeimagination.net and lipeimagination.com You have pointed all three to the same site. This gives you the assurance that a user looking for your site will find it whether they type in .com, .org, or .net. If no one already owns them, you may purchase all 22 of the possible domains.
With the new gTLDs there will be a lot more possibilities for the same address. Someone else could buy lipeimagination.bic for instance and now internet users looking for you site may inadvertently end up on a different site by accidentally adding the incorrect extension.
Well, now what? What do we do to prevent our users from ending up where they don’t want to be? The answer is this. If you are using a hosting company like Lipe Imagination to handle your website, ask them to let you know when new extensions become available and make sure to get the addresses which match your existing ones before anyone else does. I will be monitoring these and am happy to share new information with any of our clients.
There is some silver lining to this cloud. One of the main reasons they approved the new gTLDs is to allow non English writing countries to have domain extensions in their own characters and languages. This means is there will be a lot of new gTLDs that are not in English and will most likely not cause your users to accidentally go to the wrong site. You will be able to secure your sites address without owning “every” similar address.