March 14, 2011

ICANN weighs the next wave of Web domains

Will we see .news, .nonprofit, .health, .sports any time soon?

JD LasicaToday through Friday, ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — meets in San Francisco for one of the three meetings it will hold in different regions of the globe this year.

Among the items on the agenda: the next generation of top-level Internet domain names.

In this seven-minute video interview that I recorded last year, Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows, talks about the next generation of Internet domain names. Elliot previews some of the revolutionary changes that may soon be coming down the pike.

In addition to the common top-level domains like .com, .org, .net and .biz, the urls you may be clicking on include domains like .solar, .health, .water, .search, .nonprofit, .news, .sports, .ibm — a new breed of domain extensions to the right of the dot.

“This is reaching its bloody climax and you will see all the long knives out.”
— Elliot Noss, Tucows

“Social cause centered organizations shouldn’t miss out on what’s happening here,” Elliot points out. These new flavors of domains shouldn’t be seen strictly as a business opportunity but as a new way to communicate and reach new constituencies.

We could see potentially hundreds of new top-level domains and dozens of narrowcast corporate domains like .ibm, .dell or .intel. It won’t come cheap. Under one scenario, an initial application could cost $55,000 — but that’s only a deposit toward a fee of $185,000 for a full application. If there’s contention — say, Google and Microsoft duking it out over owning the .search top-level domain — then it’ll result in an auction process.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo

Liberalization of domains inches closer this week

Will ICANN settle this during the next five days? “Thousands of pages have been written. It’s still in process,” ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom told me.

This morning should provide a good overview of the global issues involved, he added. The opening session from 9 to 11 am showcases such speakers as Vint Cerf, Ira Magaziner, former White House Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin and Beckstrom.

This afternoon in the main ballroom the discussion will also focus on top-level domains. Elliot says whimsically, “This is reaching its bloody climax and you will see all the long knives out. The supporters will be shutting up and letting staff and board get to the finish line and the opponents will bring out the longest of their knives.” Thursday promises a robust public forum on Internet governance.

The public is invited to the ICANN sessions, which are generally open. See the plans for ICANN’s meetings at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square in San Francisco as well as the full schedule. (The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and GNSO are key committees on this issue.) Elliot will be there. Continue reading