A day will soon come when we can simply use domains such as ib.times or ibtimes.newyork to access websites. With your creativity, endless streams of domains can be birthed. But total freedom in the land of domains may not be as joyful for some.

The Internet Center for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved a plan to usher in one of the biggest changes in the history of the Internet's Domain Name System, announced on Monday.

ICANN hs opened the Internet's naming system to unlease the global human imagination. Today's decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script. We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind, said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN.

The decision allows the number of Internet address endings, called generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to significantly increase, from the current 22, to virtually an unlimited number of domains. Internet address names will now be able to end with almost any word in any language. Organizations and companies can explore branding effects in innovative ways, in theory.

Currently, there are 22 approved TLDs, such as .com, .org and .net which dominate the web. Some TLDs have limited use, including the .mil limited to the U.S. military, the .edu to schools and universities, and .pro to licensed or certified lawyers, accountants, physicians and engineers in certain countries. The newest domain approved was .XXX, used for sites providing sexually-explicit content, such as pornography. When .XXX was approved in March, 2011, a wide variety of reactions were seen. While some said .XXX would encourage filtering and censorship, the adult entertainment industry strongly protested against its addition, saying the industry would be encouraged to boycott the new domains.

Adding one TLD was quite a buzz. Now what will happen with the mass creation of .anything?

If you want to own your TLD the first thing you need to do is to register with a $185,000 application fee, and $25,000 annual fees. On the individual level, TLD's prices will deter you from randomly purchasing any domain for fun. But the companies with money and pride will try to establish their brand names. Applicants may need to bid for popular domains, fueling the gold rush of the digital era.

 

Just how helpful will a unique TLD be for the businesses?

The existent TLDs may forecast what is to come. For example, PC Mag discussed the usage of the .museum domain. It is expected to contain a large collection of museums around the world. However, the Smithsonian museums use an .edu address instead, and have not registered si.museum. Its registered Smithsonian.museum redirects to si.edu. Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has not used the .museum either; it prides itself as one of the largest science museums in the world. Robyn Wise, the assistant manager for public relations for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, offered one possible explanation of .museum's low popularity: Apparently, very little traffic comes via our .museum address, she said. Something like less than 2 percent. Most of the larger institutions use the .museum domain to redirect back to their main sites, according to a PC Mag report.

The point is, most users use search engines to reach a website, by typing in a name into a search engine or toolbar. Rarely would anyone directly type the URL till .com, unless it is short and simple.

It seems the new TLDs need greater publicity to be recognized.

Industry executives expect that once the process opens, ICANN will process gTLD applications as fast as it can, to the tune of about 400 to 500 in the first round, and possibly up to 1,000 per year, PCMag reported. While it may be fun to watch the births of various TLDs, they may not profit the domain holders much, except in exploiting the maintenance fee.

 

Another serious problem is the likelihood of increased cybersquatting, spammers, and phishing activities.

Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of PFIR -People For Internet Responsibility, voiced her criticism of ICANN in her blog,We may see billions of dollars wasted in ICANN's new gigantic gTLD 'domain name space' -- mostly from firms falsely hoodwinked into thinking that new domain names will be their paths to Internet riches, and from firms trying to protect their names in this vastly expanded space, ripe for abuses. Weinstein continued in the blog post, Some observers are expecting hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent quickly in the resulting environment, thanks to the associated 'gold rush' and 'buy protection for your brand' mentalities being explicitly promoted.

A technology trade group SIIA, the Software & Information Industry Association, expressed its concern in a statement on Monday, stating that the decision to approve the [ICANN's Applicant] Guidebook represents a significant threat to copyright owners. Scott, Bain, SIIA's Chief Litigation Counsel and participant in ICANN, commented that the new gTLD program necessitates intellectual property owners to familiarize themselves quickly with the RightsProtection Mechanisms in the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, and expend even more resources and time in enforcing their rights against cybersquatters and infringers.

The new opportunities opened by ICANN are already casting some shadow of doubt over their security and effectiveness. Do you and are you willing to cash in on a special dot anything domain with an amount equivalent to purchasing a house? If so, mark your calendars for January 12, 2012, when new gTLDs applications will be accepted.

If not, you can continue to use .com and .org domains, which may get just as many hits as the newbies, with annual maintenance fees as low as 2 digits.

FYI, existent TLDs are: .aero, .asia, .biz, .cat, .com, .coop, .edu, .gov, .info, .int, .jobs, .mil, .mobi, .museum, .name, .net, .org, .pro, .tel, .travel, .xxx.