ICANN approves massive expansion of domain names

20 Jun 2011

The board of directors of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved a plan to usher in one of the biggest changes to the internet’s domain name system.

At a special meeting, the board voted to expand generic top level domains (gTLDs) from the current 22 to allow future internet address names to end with almost any word in any language.

This presents major branding opportunities for businesses or charities, for example.

Virtually every organisation with an online presence could be affected in some way.

“Today’s decision will usher in a new internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

The move to expand generic top-level domains comes after a long-awaited decision in March to approve the .XXX adult domain.

Dramatic change in internet names

ICANN will soon begin a global communications program to tell the world about this dramatic change in internet names and to raise awareness of the opportunities afforded by new gTLDs. The application process will also use this period to elaborate on what is involved in applying for a new generic top-level domain.

Under the plan, new gTLDs applications are to be accepted beginning on 12 January.

The decision to launch the new gTLD program raised the curtain on ICANN’s 41st public meeting, taking place in Singapore. It is just one of the issues that will dominate the week-long meeting.

On Wednesday, the focus will turn to cyber security with the inauguration in Singapore of a specially built “hardened” facility, the first of three around the world that are helping to secure the domain names of all countries.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years