ICANN To Expand Top-Level Domain Names, Applications Start Jan 12, 2012

The ICANN board has voted to approve the new gTLD program, which was first announced three years ago. The new program will significantly expand Top-Level Domains (TLDs) to allow companies, organizations and even cities to turn their own brands into domain name extensions. Think .ADIDAS, .HOTEL, .BRUSSELS, .FACEBOOK and the likes.

Applications for new gTLDs will be accepted from 12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012.

The first ones should be operational by late 2013 according to the current roadmap.

ICANN board members voted 13 for, 1 opposed, 2 abstain on the first day of its international pow-wow in Singapore. Earlier this year, the organization’s board entered into a contract with ICM Registry to operate a .XXX top level domain name for adult websites and whatnot.

Currently, there are 22 generic top-level domains, including .com, .org and .net.

According to ICANN, newly introduced gTLDs may change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence.

“Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways,” ICANN said in a statement.

However, it’s important to note that only “established public or private organizations” will be able to apply, and the price tag for a new domain name extension is steep – unless you consider $185,000 a bargain. Nevertheless, expect lots of interest even at that price.

Applications will have to show a legitimate claim to the name they are buying – ICANN is reportedly taking on hundreds of consultants to whom it will outsource the job of evaluating such claims. In addition, gTLD owners will be expected to maintain operational sites, in an effort to minimize the risk of massive .CYBERSQUATTING.

Also read: ICANN Moves Ahead With Non-Latin Web Addresses (Video)

(Image above via the ICANN website)