I have heard about the coming change to website domain names but didn't quite understand it clearly until I read this article. AdAge titled the article "Are You Ready For One of the Biggest Changes on the Internet in a Decade?" At first, I thought that sounded a bit over-sensationalized, and perhaps it is, but if your ead through the finer points here (and I've only highlighted the key points) I think you'll see why it will change things quite a bit.
First, the basics. A "generic top-level domain" is the part of the domain name to the right of the dot, e.g. in "http://www.ICANN.org" - the "org" is the top-level domain (TLD). There are 22 generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .COM, .ORG and .NET, and around 250 country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) that are specific to certain countries, like .JP for Japan and .MX for Mexico.
With ICANNs New gTLD Program to commence January 2012, the doors will be thrown wide open and virtually any word can become a gTLD if the company or organization meets certain criteria:
They can pony up the hefty application fee ($185,000)
They can prove they can afford to run a gTLD year after year
They can justify why they should own a particular word as a gTLD – e.g. a travel company is unlikely to be successful at justifying buying ".Apple" as a gTLD but they can justify buying ".adventure"
If a company can meet these criteria - then congratulations – they've just become a registry. Amazon can buy ".books" and JetBlue can buy ".fly". And if two companies want the same word and can't reach an agreement on their own, an auction commences with the word going to the highest bidder.
From a consumer's perspective: Just when we thought it was kinda safe to go into Internet waters because we had a basic understanding of what a safe URL should look like … now anything's possible. With hundreds of new gTLDs likely to be introduced starting next year, consumer confusion is virtually guaranteed. There's little doubt fraudsters intend to exploit this new window of vulnerability.
Now you can see why there is a lot at stake. Yet, when I spoke to my IT and marketing peers at the largest companies, there was a near universal lack of information on this topic!Read more at adage.com