It might seem remarkable today, but during the internet’s formative years the process of registering websites and domains was unregulated. A handful of global top level domains (or GTLDs) had been established, including .org and .edu, but everything else was up for grabs. Speculative domain acquisitions by wealthy investors saw prices go through the roof, and a chronic shortage of available domain names ensued.
New GTLDs Up For Grabs
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – or ICANN – was created in 1998 to assume responsibility for IP addresses and generally establish order amid the chaos. One of ICANN’s primary responsibilities was the creation of new GTLDs, alleviating the overcrowded .com market by making domains with alternative suffixes available. While some of their introductions and omissions have been widely criticised, it’s inarguable that ICANN’s governance has brought unprecedented choice and clarity to domain name registration.
Even with over a thousand different domain suffixes already in circulation, work is continuing on upcoming GTLDs for 2017 and beyond. Much of this is conducted in relative secrecy, and applications can also be rejected, as happened with .gay a few years ago when there was a dispute over its eventual ownership. Indeed, it may surprise some people to learn that an organisation or private individual can apply to have new GTLDs created. Recent applications have included .tickets, .wed, .bible and .link.
Since people can object to the introduction of new GTLDs, and resolving these objections takes time, it’s difficult to say for sure which new domains will be introduced this year. ICANN report that .kids has passed both its initial and extended evaluations, and the same is true of .music. The legal-themed .llp and .inc suffixes have already progressed into the auction process, while the likes of .art and .storage are due for release in the summer.
Which New GTLDs Are Planned For 2017?
Many other GTLDs are also scheduled for release this year, although they may be subject to delays. It’s anticipated that we will have welcomed .baby, .book and .dad by the end of 2017, along with .phone, .radio and .mobile. While the appeal of .madrid and .rugby is fairly self-explanatory, it’s less clear why domains such as .rsvp or .ing have been approved, other than for the novelty value as the conclusion to a wider web address such as www.cometomywedding.rsvp. Even acknowledging that it can take a decade for a new suffix to become widely recognised and accepted, it’s unlikely that many of these GTLDs will ever achieve mass adoption.
ICANN also offer a Sunrise period during the progression of new GTLDs, which allows trademark holders a chance to register specific domain names before they’re released to the general public. This is permitted when a name is similar to a trademark, and it’s designed to prevent the sort of avaricious mass purchasing of domain names outlined in the first paragraph that meant legitimate companies had to pay large sums to obtain their own domain names. Such practices are mercifully no longer with us – not least since firms can now register more unusual GTLDs if obvious ones have already been claimed…