From .app to .blog and .google to .windows, corporations are staking their claims on a new set of top-level domain names, which will be issued by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Yesterday, ICANN released the full list of top-level domain names for which it's received applications. On the list of 1930 applications are lots of huge companies, staking claims on domain extensions such as .visa, .toyota, and .mcdonalds.
Companies are also seeking control of generic terms, such as .hotel, .pizza and .football - in some cases with multiple companies vying for the same domain. If these companies can't settle on who gets what, ICANN will ultimately have to decide through a set of string contention procedures.
Not surprisingly, major Internet companies are among the biggest applicants for the new top-level domains. Google, for instance, seeks more than 100 top-level domains including .android, .youtube and .search. Amazon wants to claim 76 domains for its own, including .amazon, .kindle and .video. Apple has only applied for one top-level domain: .apple.
What's the point of having your own top-level domain? As Forbes reports, companies may want to use these extensions for security or promotional purposes. For instance, a bank could tell customers to look for the company's name at the end of a URL to know they're in the right place. A consumer brand such as Nike could host user-generated pages under its own top-level domain, so brand loyalists could have simple, Nike-branded fitness pages to call their own.
But not everyone is convinced this is a good idea. Matt Ingram, writing for GigaOM, calls the process a “train wreck” that will cause unnecessary chaos. He notes that companies will have to spend time and effort (not to mention money, at $185,000 per domain application) just to acquire any name that might be associated with their business. The new domains could also create conflicts if ICANN hands out generic terms to specific companies. For instance, Ingram argues, Amazon could theoretically control who gets to use .book in their URLs.
For average internet users, though, the real issue might be familiarity. Today, most companies stick with .com, .net or .org. Even the rare exceptions that already exist, such as .biz and .co, cause confusion. (Quick, how many websites do you know of that use either extension?) Looking at the full list of applied-for names, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities.
In any case, the expansion of top-level domains is inevitable, as ICANN plans to bring the first batch online in early 2013. Ultimately, it will be up to the applicants to use them in useful, memorable ways - not as internet vanity plates.