WASHINGTON (AP) - Coming soon to the Internet: website addresses that end in “.bank,” “.Vegas” and “.Canon.”
The organization that oversees the Internet address system is preparing to open the floodgates to a nearly limitless selection of new website suffixes, including ones in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts. That could usher in the most sweeping transformation of the Domain Name System since its creation in the 1980s.
More than 300 suffixes are available today, the bulk of them country-code domains, such as “.uk” for the United Kingdom and “.de” for Germany.
Hundreds or even thousands more suffixes could be created, categorized by everything from industry to geography to ethnicity.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will meet Monday in Singapore (Sunday evening in the U.S.) to vote on its expansion plan for domain names. If ICANN approves the plan as expected, new domains could start appearing late next year.
The new system could bring innovative branding opportunities and allow all sorts of niche communities to thrive online.
But businesses worry that they’ll have to grab their brand names before others do. New suffixes could also create confusion as consumers navigate a Web with unfamiliar labels.
It’s also possible that the new names won’t make much difference because many people these days rely on search engines and mobile applications to find what they are looking for online. Consumers don’t type Web addresses into browsers nearly as much as they did 15 years ago when talk of a domain name expansion began.
“Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to website addresses anyway these days,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, a website that covers the search industry.
From a technical standpoint, domain names tell computers on the Internet where to find a website or send an email message. Without them, people would have to remember clunky numerals such as “220.127.116.11” for “ap.org.”
The monikers have grown to mean much more, however. Amazon.com Inc. has built its brand on its website address, while bloggers take pride in running sites with their own domain names.
ICANN has already allowed two major expansions of the addressing system. In 2000, it approved seven new domains, including “.info” and “.biz.” It began accepting new bids again in 2004. It has approved and added seven from that round, including “.xxx” for pornography sites this past March.
Under the expansion plan now before ICANN, future applications would be streamlined and open to all companies, organizations and individuals.
That has set off a virtual land rush.
Organizations that operate new suffixes will be able to collect registration fees from websites that want names. The fees could add up to millions of dollars a year if a website is popular enough.