Published June 13, 2012
Let the .landgrab begin!
Proposals for Internet addresses ending in ".pizza," ".space" and ".auto" are among the nearly 2,000 submitted as part of the largest expansion in the online address system -- each application costing a whopping $185,000.
Apple, Sony and American Express are among companies that are seeking names with their brands. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced the proposals at a news conference in London on Wednesday. The bulk of the proposals came from North America and Europe.
The public can now comment and raise objections, such as trademark violations.
If approved, the new suffixes would rival ".com" and about 300 others now in use -- making this the largest expansion of the Internet address system since its creation in the 1980s.
One day, you might go to "comedy.YouTube" rather than "YouTube.com/comedy." Yep, .YouTube was applied for, as well as .Yahoo, .webcam, .weather and more -- thousands more.
But there's a catch: The suffixes are restricted to the richest companies and groups, who paid $185,000 per proposal. If approved, each suffix would cost at least $25,000 a year to maintain, with a 10-year commitment required. By comparison, a personal address with a common suffix such as ".com" usually costs less than $10 a year.
It'll take at least a year or two for the first of these new suffixes to win approval and appear in use. And some of them never will if they are found to violate trademarks or are deemed offensive.
Others will be delayed as competing bidders quarrel for easy-to-remember words such as ".web." When multiple applications seek the same suffix, ICANN will encourage parties to work out an agreement. ICANN will hold an auction if the competing bidders fail to reach a compromise.
The expansion, already several years in the works, had been delayed by more than a month this spring because of technical glitches with the application system.
From a technical standpoint, the names let Internet-connected computers know where to send email and locate websites. But they've come to mean much more. Amazon.com Inc., for instance, has built its brand around the domain name.
Alex Stamos, whose Artemis Internet company is bidding for ".secure," said the expansion will "create much more specific neighborhoods with specific focus and goals."
Stamos envisions ".secure" as a neighborhood for banks, medical professionals, payroll providers and others needing to establish consumer trust. Websites that adopt ".secure" instead of ".com" in their names would go through additional screening and be required to follow certain security practices such as encryption of all Web traffic.
ICANN has received at least $350 million in applications fees, which will pay for the organization's costs setting up the system, reviewing applications and making sure parties do what they have promised once the suffix is operational. Some of the money will be set aside to cover potential lawsuits from unsuccessful applicants and others.
Skeptics worry that an expansion will mean more addresses available to scams that use similar-sounding names such as "Amazom" rather than "Amazon" to trick people into giving passwords and credit card information. Others worry that new suffixes could create additional platforms for hate groups or lead to addresses ending in obscenities. ICANN spent years crafting guidelines meant to curtail nefarious activities, but critics say there aren't enough safeguards in place. Critics include a coalition of business groups worried about protecting their brands in newly created names.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.