Paris, France: The Board of ICANN today approved a recommendation that could see a whole range of new names introduced to the Internet's addressing system.
"The Board today accepted a recommendation from its global stakeholders that it is possible to implement many new names to the Internet, paving the way for an expansion of domain name choice and opportunity" said Dr Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN.
A final version of the implementation plan must be approved by the ICANN Board before the new process is launched. It is intended that the final version will be published in early 2009.
"The potential here is huge. It represents a whole new way for people to express themselves on the Net," said Dr Twomey. "It's a massive increase in the 'real estate' of the Internet."
Presently, users have a limited range of 21 top level domains to choose from — names that we are all familiar with like .com, .org, .info.
This proposal allows applicants for new names to self-select their domain name so that choices are most appropriate for their customers or potentially the most marketable. It is expected that applicants will apply for targeted community strings such as (the existing) .travel for the travel industry and .cat for the Catalan community (as well as generic strings like .brandname or .yournamehere). There are already interested consortiums wanting to establish city-based top level domain, like .nyc (for New York City), .berlin and .paris.
"One of the most exciting prospect before us is that the expanding system is also being planned to support extensions in the languages of the world," said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN's Chairman. "This is going to be very important for the future of the Internet in Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia." The present system only supports 37 Roman characters.
Upon approval of the implementation plan, it is planned that applications for new names will be available in the second quarter of 2009.
Frequently asked questions on the process
1. Are you selling these new names?
ICANN is not "selling" new top level domain names. There will be a limited application period where any established entity from anywhere in the world can submit an application that will go through an evaluation process. It is anticipated that there will be additional rounds relatively soon after the close of the first application round.
2. What's to stop others registering my brand name?
Trademarks will not be automatically reserved. But there will be an objection-based mechanism for trademark owners where their arguments for protection will be considered.
3. How did this proposal get developed?
ICANN has a multi-stakeholder policy development process that served as the foundation for the process design. It involved consultation with domain name industry, trade mark attorneys, the business sector, users, governments and technicians.
4. How will offensive names be prevented?
Offensive names will be subject to an objection-based process based on public morality and order. This process will be conducted by an international arbitration body utilizing criteria drawing on provisions in a number of international treaties. ICANN will not be the decision maker on these objections.
5. When will all this happen?
ICANN is working towards accepting the first applications in the second quarter of 2009.
ICANN is responsible for the global coordination of the Internet's system of unique identifiers like domain names (like .org, .museum and country codes like .uk) and the addresses used in a variety of Internet protocols that help computers reach each other over the Internet. Careful management of these resources is vital to the Internet's operation, so ICANN's global stakeholders meet regularly to develop policies that ensure the Internet's ongoing security and stability. ICANN is an internationally organized, public benefit non-profit company. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.
Media Adviser, ICANN
Ph: +1 310 382 4004
International: Andrew Robertson
Ph: +44 7921 588 770