Ever wondered just how long we can keep creating new Web addresses before we begin to run out? At a meeting in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet address system, attempted to find a solution to the problem by approving a major expansion of available address names that would make it possible for Web users to create their own extensions.
ICANN “envisions hundreds of new extensions” in the first round of applications alone, says The New York Times. Forget .com or .net—extensions for cities (think .berlin), brands (.canon has already applied), and other various places, companies, and things could become the norm. Need a buzz? Try iwant.beer. Hungry? Check out whatsfor.dinner.
The new address system would give Internet users “vastly greater choice, leading to innovations in online marketing, among other things,” says the NYT. But some critics are wary of the expansion, saying that the existing suffixes provide more than enough choice, while owners of corporate brands and other trademarks fear that the sudden increase in available domain names could lead to a whole new round of intellectual property abuses.
As a precaution against potential cybersquatters, ICANN is charging steep fees for the new addresses—$185,000 for the extension, with a $25,000 annual fee to maintain it—and will offer a “sunrise” period following the rollout to allow trademark owners to claim their domain names first.
Both corporations and government officials worldwide have to decide whether to embrace the changes (and likely spend millions on new site names) or hope that .com, .net, .org, and other familiar three-letter suffixes can carry them through the next wave of Web innovation.