In a lopsided vote Monday, the ICANN board voted 13-1-2 to initiate the process that could introduce hundreds of new top level domains (e.g., .canon, .music, .nyc) into the DNS.
The process starts in January 2012 with a 90-day application period, followed by a six-month analysis period, after which the rights to the new TLD will be awarded (if more there is more than one applicant, the process will take longer). After a TLD is awarded, it will probably take several months to a year before the TLD goes into use.
However, while the ‘how’ of new TLDs is now relatively clear, the ‘what’ is still completely up for grabs.
Many observers think there will be between a couple hundred and a thousand applications. However, they could be wrong. Many observers think that niche (.surf) and brand (.apple) TLDs will make up the bulk of TLD applicants. However, they could be wrong. Many observers think that new TLDs will be a huge headache for IP rights holders and this will change everything. However, they could be wrong.
The only certainty that results from this decision is that change is coming and no one knows exactly what it will mean.
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While the only certainty is change, a few things are pretty clear about what this decision means for web users and web presence operators.
- The way we engage with some brands on the web is going to change. Instead of a “.com” intermediated relationship with a brand (twitter.com/graychy), the relationship will be direct (graychy.twitter).
- Somewhat related, the web is going to get more confusing for users. Ex: where do I go to find out about Canon cameras, com.canon or canon.com?
- The web is going to get more complex for web presence operators. When you operate a space on the web, there are going to be more companies and new and existing companies will be acting in new ways. Ex: who do I talk to about establishing my web presence? A registrar (e.g., GoDaddy)? A registry service provider (e.g., Verisign)? A combined registrar/registry (e.g., a newTLD) A brand (e.g., Hitachi)? ICANN?
- The number and nature of participants in the Internet governance process is going to increase. Ex. add 500 more economically interested parties to the policy mix and the rules that govern how the Internet works will almost certainly change in ways that existing players might not expect or agree with.
- The market for DNS services will increase in size and importance. Whether it is new TLD applicants (.canon) or new registry service providers (e.g, OpenRegistry), more companies will need a partner with DNS expertise to help them ensure the stability and security of their presence on the web.
- The decision to expand the TLD space is only the beginning. As one of the ICANN board members said in the lead up to the vote, while the process has taken five years, the vote was neither the end of this process, nor even the beginning of the end of this process, it was merely the end of the beginning.
Just like the first time around, the Internet and web is about to change the way we interact with the world in exciting and unimaginable ways.
Gray Chynoweth is the VP of Business Operations and General Counsel at Dyn, an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) leader that features a full suite of managed DNS and email delivery services. Follow at Twitter: @dyninc | @graychy and check out his archive of blogs.