ICANN will accept applications from January 12

The decks will be cleared in the coming months for expansion of the global web address regime, with the addition of hundreds of new generic top-level domain names (gTLD) — the concluding part of the address that follows the dot, like .com or .org.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is set to accept applications from January 12.

The global body that oversees the operation and administration of the Internet domain name system, ICANN will keep the applications window open till April 12, but the last date for registration is March 29.

Any established public or private organisation anywhere in the world can submit applications to create and operate a new gTLD registry, provided it has the operational, technical and financial capability. The costs involved are huge — the evaluation fee itself amounts to $1,85,000.

Two types of TLDs

Two types of TLDs are in operation now: gTLDs such as .com or .edu; and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .in (for India) or .uk (for the United Kingdom). ICANN is also finalising a financial assistance programme for certain types of applicants. This will be based on whether such gTLDs are operated for cultural, linguistic or ethnic communities; whether they are supported by non-profit, civil society or non-governmental organisations; and whether they are from the developing or least developed countries. They should also fulfil criteria on financial need and capability. In such cases, the evaluation fee will be $47,000.

“We are seeing a steady response from the Indian corporate market. While many anticipate that ICANN will receive as many as 1,000 applications, I expect that much of the volume will come from the U.S. and Europe. However, we are seeing a strong pickup in China and India in the new economies,” says Ram Mohan, security and stability committee liaison to the ICANN Board and executive vice-president of Afilias, a domain name registry services company. But it is unclear how many Indian companies would follow through with applications.

As for awareness in India, he said: “I have spoken with the leaders of several corporates, and they seem to be the most aware of the gTLD opportunity. I have also seen good awareness of the gTLD programme at the Central government level, and in some State government circles. NGOs in India have been highly energised by the new gTLD process, primarily owing to the efforts of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) that has declared its intention to apply for .ngo.” (PIR is a not-for-profit corporation that has been operating the .org top level domain.)

A different proportion

Applying for a new gTLD is a proposition entirely different from buying a domain name (a unique website address). As ICANN explains: “An applicant for a new gTLD is, in fact, applying to create and operate a registry business supporting the Internet's domain name system.” The process of buying a domain name is relatively simple and usually inexpensive.

ICANN has tried to set up a process for raising objections and resolving disputes, which could be very important as in the case of trademarks or geographical names or other words that denote a particular profession or community.

A fortnight after the close of the application window, ICANN will post the public portions of all applications on its website.