Companies and organisations can now choose their own internet domain names after the peak naming authority confirmed its plans to introduce a top-level domain program, although the price is set to be out of the reach of many start-ups.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the internet address system, has passed a resolution to accept applications for generic top-level domain names.
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The new program is expected to radically change the landscape of the internet naming system as it will vastly expand the range of domain names used on the web, beyond the common domain suffixes, such as .com and .com.au.
These common domains could be soon be replaced with company or location-specific domains such as .nike or .sydney.
Applications for the new domains will open for three months on January 12 next year but will cost $174,000 to register, potentially putting off many small businesses.
Even so, ICANN predicts between 300 and 1000 new domains will be created during the three-month timeframe.
ICANN board member Steve Crocker has told ICANN staff to “strap themselves in” for a period of frenetic activity, including some conflict among applicants when the application process opens.
ICANN is expected to begin a market education program before opening the application process, with the first gTLD names not expected to be approved until late next year.
Domain registry services provider Melbourne IT recently surveyed 150 of its largest customers and found 92% were interested in applying for a gTLD name to match their brand.
ICANN has insisted that entrepreneurs will also benefit from the program, with former vice president Paul Levins stating: “We don’t know all the innovations this will produce, but what we know is that it will produce a lot of it”.
AusRegistry chief executive Alan Kinderis says the decision marks the start of an exciting new era for the industry, claiming it will “pave the way for the next wave of online innovation”.
According to Kinderis, there is no better way for a corporation to identify itself as genuine and committed to the online medium than by owning its own piece of the web.
But Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of Australian tech seed fund Pollenizer, doesn’t believe the program is overly relevant to start-ups.
“Domain names actually reduce the importance [of an internet address], not increase it. Most people simply Google something and click a link [regardless of the domain name],” he says.
“It might be good for SEO but if you have the right business and the right promotion, it’s not that valuable – it’s not for a start-up,” he says.