New Top Level Domains Set to Be Revealed

Over $100 million in VC dollars are tied to a big shift for the domain name industry as ICANN is set to expand the Internet beyond the current 22 Top Level Domains.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jun 8, 2012
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On June 13th, ICANN will for the first time publicly reveal the new names that could one day become Top Level Domains. It's a process that will yield thousands of new Generic Top Level Domains to the Internet. Currently there are only 22 TLDs, including the well known .com,.net and .org.

The process that kicked off the new gTLDs was approved a year agoafter vigorous debate. While ICANN is not publicly revealing the names that have been applied for until June 13th, there has been some preliminary disclosure from a number of the applicants.

One of the many groups applying for new gTLDs is Donuts Inc. While the name might sound whimsical, Donuts Inc is a serious business and has raised $100 million in venture capital to fund its gTLD efforts. With that money in hand, Donuts has applied for 307 gTLDs in total. As to how Donuts went about selecting the 307 domains, Mason Cole, VP Communication at Donuts told InternetNewsthat they had a pretty rigorous process that was some art and some science.

"We evaluated about 3,000 potential TLDs and using a lot of analytics and research, narrowed it to 307," Cole said.

Donuts is not however yet disclosing the list of names that they applied for. Google on the other hand is also applying for new gTLDs and they have publicly disclosed what some of those names are.

Google has applied for names related to their business including the .google and .youtube domain. As well they have applied for at least one whimsical name, with .lol.

"We're just beginning to explore this potential source of innovation on the web, and we are curious to see how these proposed new TLDs will fare in the existing TLD environment," Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google wrote in a blog post. "By opening up more choices for Internet domain names, we hope people will find options for more diverse—and perhaps shorter—signposts in cyberspace."

One of the things that is likely to happen on June 13th is that the name reveal will disclose contention for certain names. That is, more than one group will be applying for the same name string. Donuts' Mason said that name contention is certain to happen.

"That will be known as a 'contention set,' and ICANN will encourage applicants to resolve the contention among themselves and, failing that, ICANN will conduct an auction to find a prevailing applicant," Mason said. "It's too early to say what Donuts will do specifically, but we resourced the company so that we are capable of securing each TLD we applied for."

While there is lots of money being thrown at the creation of new TLDs, what's not entirely clear is whether or not Internet users will use them. The Internet today has 22 TLDs and yet .com still represents the lion's share, with others still struggling to gain prominence.

Mason noted that .COM has over 100 million registrations, which is a lot of names.

"The downside is if you want a domain name specific to what you're doing -- your business, product, family, cause, project, whatever -- you're really unlikely to find it," Mason said. " These TLDs will be different because they allow variety and specificity."

For example, Mason said, would a company rather have getyournyctheatertickets.com, or theater.tickets?

Mason added that as well, with the new TLDs companies will be attracting new users to the Internet who can't use it in a meaningful way now because they can't type in their native characters (like Cyrillic for Russian or Kanji for Japanese). According to Mason, some of the new TLDs will solve that issue.

"If you measure by utility, specificity, new options, your success rate just went up," Mason said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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