Anyone for .tennis? Bidders for new domain names revealed

US companies such as Google and Amazon dominate ICANN's almost 2,000-strong list of bidders for new generic top-level domains, which can now reflect brand names as in .apple or topics such as .wedding and .sex
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor on

The companies vying to take ownership of .sex, .lol and a raft of other new internet domains have been revealed, with US businesses such as Google and Amazon outweighing other bidders.

Rod Beckstrom

ICANN boss Rod Beckstrom revealed the bidders for new generic top-level domains on Wednesday. Image credit: Tom Espiner/ZDNet

On Tuesday, ICANN released the list of applicants for the first batch of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which totalled 1,930, ICANN president Rod Beckstrom said at a launch event in London. The gTLD programme, which began accepting paid bids for names in January, allows almost any word as a domain, opening the door to brand-based extensions such as .nike or topics such as .football.

"This is an historic day for the internet, and for more than two billion people around the world who depend upon it," Beckstrom said. "The internet is about to change forever."

As expected, Google applied for several domains, including .lol, .android and .app. The .app domain was the most contested, with Google going up against Amazon and 12 others. Ten organisations went after .art, nine for .shop, four for .tennis and two for .sex. Apple went for just one: .apple.

Small businesses shut out?

In the list announced on Tuesday, 1,846 were bids for standard gTLDs and 84 were from groups for 'community-based' gTLDs. One of the criticisms of the gTLD process has been that the $185,000 (£119,000) application fee, and $25,000 minimum annual running cost, excludes small businesses and others with fewer resources. For example, there were only 17 bidders from Africa, compared with 911 from North America.

Our goal was to establish a level playing field and communicate the programme globally.
– Rod Beckstrom, ICANN

Beckstrom told ZDNet UK that the disparity reflects the different cycles of adoption of technology in different regions. "Our goal was to establish a level playing field and communicate the programme globally," he said. "We added an applicant support programme in case any parties want to apply. If they felt economic restraints, then they would at least have an opportunity to apply for support." 

ICANN, a non-profit organisation, made a total of around $352m from the application process, minus around $3.5m for refunds. Bidders were offered their fees back without the required £5,000 penalty after a glitch in the process exposed the personal details of some applicants to others. According to ICANN, 154 bidders asked for refunds, of which 15 got all their money back and 139 got $5,000.

Beckstrom rejected the suggestion that those whose details were breached were the ones who pulled out of the application process. "I don't know of any specific linkage between those parties and the refunds," he said.

The gTLDs applications included 116 for internationalised domain names, which use non-Latin scripts. Security experts have flagged the possibility of spoofed domain names using non-latin character sets being used by cybercriminals to fool people.

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