The organisation that manages the world's most important web address extensions — what goes after the dot in a URL — is to hold a vote on Thursday that could see an entire new generation of URLs made possible.
Proposals that could be voted through at the board meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) include the introduction of internationalised domain names — those that do not use Latin characters — and companies being allowed to create their own top-level domains (TLDs) instead of using, for example, .com or .net. The highly contentious .xxx domain extension could also finally become a reality.
The policies that are to be voted on have taken around three years and $10m (£5m) to formulate, ICANN president Paul Twomey told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday. "This is the first time [ICANN will be voting on] the detail of how [such] applications would work," said Twomey. "The vote on Thursday will essentially be the board saying 'yes' or 'no' as to whether [these new domain extensions are] implementable."
Twomey said a 'yes' vote on the proposals would be followed by more work to turn them into legal propositions, which would then need further approval before turning into reality. There would also need to be a four-month public notification period, so applications would probably only be invited from the end of the first quarter next year, he added. "The excitement [on Thursday] is the confirmation of the policy, potentially, and people seeing how the whole thing will work," he said.
If the proposals go through, almost any extension will theoretically become possible, as long as it is 64 characters or less. Therefore, the .xxx domain extension could become possible as long as a suitable registrar is found — ICANN sunk the last such application in 2007, considering ICM Registry's application to be unsuitable. Companies or other organisations with trademarked names, however, will gain priority.