Why new domains don’t matter to .you or .me

A relatively small minority of Internet users bother to register a personal domain name ending in “.com”, “.net”, “.org,” or the other common suffixes. But there’s now something higher to aspire to: It will soon be possible to take control not just of your own .com, but an entire family of domains, with its own unique bit at the end.

As it turns out, though, nabbing a top-level domain — the part that comes after the last dot in an email or website address — will take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting it well out of reach for ordinary Internet users — most of whom, it should be noted, don’t even bother to spend the $8 or $10 it takes to register the long-established “.com” variety.

Still, it’s the largest ever change to Internet domain names in years. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’s board of directors paved the way for independent registars to own the new “generic” top-level domains, which won’t replace familiar suffixes like .com or .net, but instead exist side by side with them. Previously, ICANN alone was responsible for the maintenence and creation of these domain suffixes.

Up to a thousand new top-level domains per year may be granted under the new plan, more than the total number of so-called “root” domains in existence today. It’s unlikely we’ll see that breakneck pace of creation immediately, though, according to Ben Crawford, CEO of UK-based CentralNic, a domain-name company.

Crawford tells the Daily Dot, “There will be hundreds and possibly thousands [of applications] in this round. It could take four or five years to process them all.”

Even then, it may not change much in terms of the websites most Internet users visit. As the chart above shows, “.com” still remains the most popular suffix by far, and it’s not clear that the creation of new suffixes will change that.

Two-character domain suffixes such as .me (Montenegro) and .co (Colombia) will remain technically exclusive to countries and their external territories. Though they’re meant to indicate location, many people have registered such country domain names for clever names, like About.me, or shorter URLs, like online retailer Overstock.com’s o.co. (Countries typically allow such usage because they earn fees from domain-name registrars.)

The new process may open up suffixes for cities, regions, and cultures, said Crawford: “There may be many more geographic domains than ever before—for example cities like .NYC, and regions like .GAL for Galicia in Spain and .VEN for Veneto in Italy.”

And the program continues the expansion of non-English alphabets and writing systems, bringing them to a much larger audience. This could be the more meaningful impact of the decision as currently no generic domain suffixes exist in other alphabets such as Arabic, Japanese, or Cyrillic—websites in those languages are forced to use the Roman alphabet. Opening the creation of new generic suffixes means in some part opening up the soul of the Web to billions of people in their own language.

As seeming proof to the pending demand for expansion, more than 12,000 individuals and 100 cultural organizations have already voiced interest in applying for new top-level generic domains according to a recent ICANN report. However, you won’t find familiar registrars like GoDaddy or Network Solutions offering the point-and-click creation of new Web real estate, the way they do for currently available domains. Each applicant will need to put up a significant investment to prepare the proper applcation in addtion to ICANN’s application fee.

Crawford explained the costs of bootstrapping a new top-level domain to us from his hotel in Singapore after attending the special meeting of ICANN’s Board of Directors, “About $200,000 in costs to put together an application, including policy documents, etc. Plus the $185,000 ICANN fee. Plus up to $120,000 per arbitration session. That will get you the domain.”

It’s a steep price to pay to own the whatever in dot whatever.

Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson is a software engineer and product manager, but he started his career at the Daily Dot as a senior editor focused on data-driven journalism. He previously served as an editor for Download Squad and AOL's Digital Music Weblog.