ICANN Slams Door on Applications for New Internet Top-Level Domains

List of applicants to be disclosed on June 13.

The universe of Internet addresses will soon be expanding. On June 13, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization formed in the late 1990s to oversee the global domain name system, will unveil the 2000+ applications for a host of new “Generic Top Level Domains” (gTLDs). Once in place, these will change how all of us use the Internet.

First things first. A top level domain (TLD) is the term that appears “to the right of the dot” in Internet addresses. It comes in two flavors: a “country-code” top level domain, or ccTLD (e.g., “.US”, “.FR”, “.UK”) and a “generic” top level domain (or gTLD), including most of the ones we use every day, such as “.COM”, “.ORG”, and “.GOV”.

Since ICANN took over domain name management in 1999, it has added a few gTLDs, but there are only 21 now available for the world to use. Each gTLD is entrusted to a Registry which is responsible for the TLD’s technical management, including proper operation of the registry zone servers and dissemination of the TLD zone files. Registries play a role key in the technical management of Internet infrastructure and in stability and security of the Net.

Registries do not sell domain names to the public. That task is reserved for “Registrars,” who handle the retail side of the domain name operation. They register “second level domain names” to the left of the dot, e.g., “fhhlaw” in fhhlaw.com. GTLD Registrars, like gTLD Registries, are under contract to ICANN, which encourages competition among them. GoDaddy, famous for its Super Bowl commercials, is the largest of these.

ICANN is now introducing competition to the top level as well.

Since January, ICANN has accepted applications from companies and organizations that want to be new gTLDs Registries. The new gTLDs can be not only in English, the traditional language of the Net, but for the first time also in Chinese, Cyrillic, and other language scripts. It’s an exciting event for the non-English-speaking world.

Over 2,000 applications have been filed by more than 1,200 applicants. On May 30, ICANN’s TLD Application System (TAS) slams shut and the first round of applications closes. On June 13, ICANN will reveal to the world who applied and what gTLDs they asked for. But the new gTLDs won’t go on the Net quite yet.

First, let the objections fly! ICANN, under the terms of its “New gTLD Applicant Guidebook,” will accept objections from legal rights holders, such as trademark owners. Check back here for updated information as the time for objections approaches.

In the meantime, the expanding ICANN world waits with bated breath. Although we don’t know all the new gTLDs requested, some hopeful registries have announced their plans. They include “brand” gTLDs, such as .DELOITTE, “geographic” gTLDs such as .NYC and .PARIS, and “interest/advocacy” gTLDs such as .GREEN and .ECO.  We’ll share some of the others as they become known.

[Blogmeister’s Note: Kathy Kleiman helped to write, edit, argue, and re-edit numerous sections of ICANN’s “New gTLD Applicant Guidebook.” She knows the content and rules well. When ICANN opens the applications to objections, Kathy will lead a team here at Fletcher Heald to slice and dice the list in search of the bad (e.g., possible conflicts with client-owned trademarks), and the good (e.g., possible business and other opportunities based on client interests and locations). But time will be short. If you want our help with either problems or opportunities in the new gTLD list, it’s best to let us know soon.]

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