Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Goodbye, TLDs?

When I saw the headline "'Shake-up' for internet proposed," I immediately thought "IPv6", but in fact it's about a proposal to relax the restrictions on the top-level domains (TLDs). Currently there are just under 300, including the well-known .com, national domains (.us etc.), the moderately obscure (.coop) and the experimental (.xn--deba0ad).

As it stands, ICANN strictly controls this list and seldom touches it. If you want foo.com, all you have to do is make sure no one else has it (that one's taken, of course) and pay a small fee. But if you want foo.bar, you're out of luck. There is no .bar on the official TLD list.

Under the new scheme, you could claim .bar for your very own, so long as you could show a "business plan and technical capacity". And, um, pay several thousand dollars at a minimum and more if you get into a bidding war. In theory, this opens up vast new areas of virtual real estate and greatly blurs the line between TLDs and domains in general.

While it will be nice to have internationalized names (.xn-deba0ad spells "test" in Yiddish), I expect that .com will continue to rule the roost for quite some time, though .xxx will doubtless spark a land rush. For all the talk of running out of domain names, .com and the web have become inextricably linked. See .tv for a cautionary tale.

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