Whither goes the humble URL? Web addresses became a part of our lives so quickly and smoothly that some people felt they could leave just as quickly, through nothing more than a disrespectful browser or the whim of an artistic temperament. But what if URLs aren’t obtrusive or ugly or nonsensical; what if they’re just a little stale and ready for a revival?
For those who are done with dot coms and dot govs, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is prying open the floodgates and expanding the number of generic Top Level Domains from 22 to 1,400 new names or strings. In addition to gTLDs, there are already 248 country code top-level domains, which is why that number probably strikes you as low, and many of them are open for nonresidents to buy domains on—.tv, for instance, doesn’t stand for television, but the Polynesian island nation Tuvalu.
The first of the new names are being added to the internet root zone and will soon be ready for the taking. Prepare to welcome the imminent domains.
The first round of four came out in October. They all use non-Latin alphabets—Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic—as ICANN claims to be working to create a “globally-inclusive internet, regardless of language or region.”
The next several dozen new gTLDs that were moved into the root zone were dominated by two companies: Uniregistry.com, which nabbed .SEXY and .TATTOO and Donuts.co, which snatched up .DIAMONDS, .PLUMBING .SINGLES and many more. As the land grab opened, Donuts.co’s co-founder Dan Schindler said that his company had invested over $100 million going after 307 strings, but he didn’t explain why the company used a seemingly unending string of other nominal corporations to do so. Uniregistry.com applied for 54, and .SEXY is its early windfall.
If you’re interested in buying domains with these strings you’ll have to wait for the mandatory period where trademarks get to shop for their names first to end.
When the new gTLD program was announced over a year ago it was called potentially the “biggest land grab in internet history.” The analogy is fairly consistent with ICANN’s rhetoric that occasionally sounds like it’s opening the Old West.
"It's happening – the biggest change to the internet since its inception," said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Generic Domains Division via their website. "In the weeks and months ahead, we will see new domain names coming online from all corners of the world, bringing people, communities and businesses together in ways we never imagined. It's this type of innovation that will continue to drive our global society."
The goal is to open competition to gTLDs aside from .com, the dominance of which drives unsportsmanlike, but often totally legal, cybersquatting—a practice that netted the founder of Uniregistry.com millions.
Anyway, the roll-outs seem to be coming once per week and can be followed here. I'm sure there will be plenty of fun and horrible domains to purchase in the near future.