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Icann to allow any word as a domain

From 2012, companies will be able to pay £114,000 to register almost any word in any language as a generic top-level domain, paving the way for extensions such as .coke
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Next year it will become possible to register almost any word as a generic top-level domain, as Icann has approved the expansion of the internet's naming system beyond familiar address endings such as .com and .net.

Peter Dengate Thrush

Next year it will become possible to register almost any word as a generic top-level domain, Icann boss Peter Dengate Thrush has announced. Photo credit: kjd/Flickr

The decision to allow new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) was announced on Monday. Icann — the organisation that administers the internet's addressing system — said the move will "change the way people find information on the internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence". At the moment, there are only 22 domain endings in use, and the move is expected to lead to a significant increase.

"Today's decision will usher in a new internet age," Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of Icann's board of directors, said in a statement. "We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration."

Virtually any word in any language and any script may, from 12 January, 2012, be registered as a gTLD, as long as the entity registering it has $185,000 (£114,000) to pay for the application to become a registry. Certain words are banned, including words associated with the structure of the domain name system (DNS), such as .local or .host, and country names.

Brand names

The move will allow companies to apply for domain names based on their brands, opening the door to extensions such as .coke and .google, for example. It could also lead to common words as extensions, such as .plectrum or .coffee.

Matthew Sammon, a partner at intellectual property law firm Marks & Clerk, said it is likely every brand that can will apply for its own domain suffix, while the cost of doing so will keep away would-be cybersquatters.

"However, we're yet to find how the story will end for two companies who own the right to the same trade name in different territories and both want it for their domain name suffix," Sammon said in a statement on Monday. "Such cases may lead to a race to file the application with Icann or even an auction."

Names that may infringe on others' trademarks are not prohibited, but there is an objection process in place to deal with disputed gTLDs. The window for the first applications will close on 12 April, and Icann expects the first set of gTLDs to be in operation by the end of 2012, a spokesman told ZDNet UK.

The battle to introduce new gTLDs has been going on for around a decade, and Icann's desire to be able to implement such things was central to its push for independence from the US government.

Concerns over an expansion of gTLDs have mostly centred on trademark issues and the acceptability of domains such as .gay. The US wanted to have a veto on such contentious names, but Icann refused.

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