The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the organization that oversses the Internet address system, voted to open up the floodgates on website domain suffixes. Right now, there are only 22 domain endings as well as around 250 country-level domain names, such as .us or .uk, explains the BBC. Now it’s the “dot-anything age,” as Dow Jones puts it. Pretty much any word, in any language, can become a top-level domain name. Icann says the change will lead to a rush in innovation.
“Icann has opened the internet's addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination,” said Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for Icann. “No one can predict where this historic decision will take us.”
Getting a vanity top-level domain won’t be easy. It will cost $185,000 just to apply for the suffixes, and $25,000 a year to maintain. The high price is in part meant to discourage cyber squatters and Icann insists it needs the money in order to cover the cost of the review process. “But the more clear implication is that Icann is unabashedly allowing large corporations and other major brands to drive the future of the Internet,” writes PCWorld’s Eric Mack.
While the move is being hailed as “the biggest shake-up yet in how Internet domains are awarded,” as Reuters writes, others wonder whether it will really make much of a difference. “I’m skeptical that the change will radically transform the way we use the Web,” writes The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson, who notes that most surf the Internet through links and search engines. Yet it still marks one more way in which the Internet “is becoming less free and open,” adds Thompson. Big companies will undoubtedly have the big advantage in controlling new sections of the Web whereas everyone else will be stuck in .com world. “Competition will become a little less fair, and the Internet will become a little less fun.”