Every day, upwards of 100,000 new Internet domain names are registered worldwide. People, groups and businesses stake their claim to these small pieces of internet real-estate, and in doing so become part of a massive network that stretches all the way back to 1985. Since the beginning of the Internet, registering a new domain name has been limited to common Top-Level Domain (TLD) extensions, such as .COM or .ORG. This structure has limitations, with many domain names currently being unavailable. However, this will not be the case for long. By the end of 2012, users will have the ability to choose from thousands of new domain extensions, including .MUSIC, .COKE, .GAY, .XXX, and .NIKE among many others. The introduction of new domain extensions into the existing structure will create a system of online classification that the Internet currently lacks, and it will greatly change how we navigate the internet.
In January 2012, applications will become open to any person, group or organization that meets ICANN’s qualification criteria. This open application process will inevitably produce an influx in brand-based domain extensions, such as .COKE, .FORD, .NIKE, and so on. Large companies will jump on these new domain extensions as a means of extending their branding into the online world.
A significantly smaller group of domain extensions that we will also see are what have come to be recognized as ‘Community’ domains. Community domain extensions (ex. .MUSIC, .GAY, .ECO) will represent existing common interest groups and will create a unified space online where the issues and topics that affect their communities can be represented. In a recent article for Forbes, Brian Cute explained why Community domains hold the most potential for success.
“These communities come with a built-in sense of passion, common interest and drive to promote a cause. By providing them with a unique and targeted place on the Internet, a community-based TLD presents a truly powerful platform for common interest groups to come together and promote their causes.”
The application process for a Community domain extension is far more rigorous than that of a Corporate domain which is designated through an auction-style process that awards the domain to the highest bidder. Community domains, can forgo the auction process if they prove that they represent, and have the support, of a clearly defined community group. The criteria needed to accomplish this is extremely strict but if successful, the benefits to the community will be substantial. Community domains will be protected from corporate control, and instead will become unifying online platforms for the communities they represent.
One of the more desirable Community domains up for grabs is .ECO, the environmental domain. The international community collective applying to operate .ECO is backed by a diverse group of international environmental groups including Conservation International, WWF, Green Cross International, the David Suzuki Foundation, B Lab, Verite and Greenpeace. Under the guidance of these organizations, our Dot Eco team has developed a Policy that will ensure that .ECO is operated on behalf of the international sustainability community, which means that members of the community, be they individuals or organizations, will have a say in how .ECO is run.
This has been our biggest priority from the very beginning. For the past two years, we have consulted with members of the environmental community, including companies, non-profits, government agencies and individuals, through a series of international public forums and meetings. “Dot Eco has gone out of its way to consult with as many people as possible during this rigorous and lengthy consultation and process period,” states Dot Eco Council Chair Martin Atkin of Green.TV.
ICANN’s goal is to announce the new domain extensions and their operators by November 2012. More information on the application process can be found on ICANN’s website. If you would like to learn more about our Community application for .ECO, please visit our website.