ICANN announces domain name changes

The number of top-level domains will increase under new proposals put forward by the Internet's governing body

The body which oversees domain names has listed two measures to increase the number of domains available.
There will be an increase in the number of top level domains available, as well as the finalisation of a long-running push to standardise the use of non-Roman characters in domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently met in Carthage and resolved to introduce new generic top level domains (gTLDs), to be announced by September next year. At this time ICANN has undertaken to provide a comprehensive evaluation of:

  • The potential impact of new gTLDs on the Internet root server system and Internet stability;
  • The creation and implementation of selection criteria for new and existing TLD registries, including public explanation of the process, selection criteria, and the rationale for selection decisions;
  • Potential consumer benefits/costs associated with establishing a competitive environment for TLD registries; and

  • Recommendations from expert advisory panels, bodies, agencies, or organisations regarding economic, competition, trademark, and intellectual property issues.

    ICANN also announced a new round of sponsored generic top level domain names (sTLDs), which serve specific communities. The most recently released sTLD was the .PRO sTLD, which is aimed at giving professionals their own top level domain name.

    "ICANN has now moved forward with a program to introduce further competition and choice in the top-level domain markets," said ICANN president, Dr Paul Twomey. "We will engage in this directive in order to develop a streamlined process for the introduction of gTLDS. We will be using the early sTLD round to help us engage the community in the process and to further evaluate the best manner to achieve the appropriate balance between corporate/sponsor control of TLD's and ICANN's role of 'management on behalf of the Internet community'".

    Earlier this year a panel convened by the au Domain Administrator (auDA) rejected most submissions for new domain names under .au, agreeing only with the proposals for state-based domains. The argument for rejecting domains such as biz.au was that the domains duplicated existing domains and therefore wouldn't widen the choice of domain names available.

    ICANN has to tread the same line, being careful not to create domains that will see owners of current domain names register the corresponding domain under the new gTLD simply to protect their 'brand'.

    ICANN has also announced it will prepare a full assessment of technical standards to support multilingual domain names, to be prepared by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). There has been increasingly vociferous calls over the past few years for standards to allow domain names with non-English characters to be integrated into the World Wide Web. Several languages already have a trial system in place.