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From Dot-Com to Dot-Anything-You-Want

The change could be a big opportunity for brands in the online arena


One of the biggest changes in the history of the Internet is happening on Monday, after the organization that oversees the Internet address system voted to expand the number of new website suffixes, according to the Associated Press.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, said Monday at a meeting in Singapore that hundreds more suffixes could be created beginning as early as late next year.

Today, just 22 generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, exist -- .com, .org and .info are examples of gTLDs -- plus about 250 country-level domains like .uk or .cn. Now, new gTLDs can come into existence, Reuters reported.

The change is seen as a big opportunity for brands in the online arena. Brand owners will be able to operate what would be essentially their own slices of the Web, like .apple, .coke, .pepsi or .bmw.

Icann, which has been working on this idea for years, envisions hundreds of new extensions, and that is just in the first round of applying and assigning, the New York Times reported. The range of Internet addresses that would be available would increase exponentially.

The move will also change the way search engines find and display results of people's searches, and the way organizations will have to code their websites to improve their visibility in search results, Reuters said.

Icann has safeguards planned to discourage cybersquatters and other opportunists, the New York Times said. The price of the new extensions has been set at $185,000, with an additional fee of $25,000 a year to maintain them. Trademark owners would be allowed to claim their names for use in addresses during certain time periods. In addition, individuals or organizations will have to show a legitimate claim to the domain name they are buying, Reuters said.

Up until now, it seems that marketers have preferred .com over other extensions, like .web, .net or suffixes that are associated with a country. So brand owners are unsure about how consumers will react. Icann has been adding suffixes slowly over time, one by one, before the big change it approved Monday. Most recently, it approved .xxx for sexually explicit sites, an extension that didn't appear to get much support from the pornography industry.