Domain names turn .com into .anything

Domain names will soon become a whole lot more customizable, thanks to a new ICANN decision.

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    Domain names will soon get a new look, thanks to ICANN.
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Domain names! Right now, on the Web, there are only the usual generic top-level domain names, which you probably recognize, if you have done any Internet surfing in the last decade –– .com, .edu, .org, etc. That is about to change. This week, ICANN, the organization which overseas these kinds of things, has approved a plan to allow folks to create personalized top-level domains.

"ICANN has opened the Internet's naming system to unleash the global human imagination," Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN, said in a statement. "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."

Lofty. But let us translate: Basically, if you are Apple, you could reserve the Web address www.iPad.Apple. If you are Burger King, you can reserve the Web address www.Whopper.BurgerKing. No .com, no boundaries. The new system will open up in 2012. The price? Very high. According to PC Mag, applicants will fork over a $185,000 fee to get the process rolling. So is this is a good idea?

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"Way back in the early days of the web, I remember the domain name gold rush," Lance Ulanoff writes in an astute analysis of the ICANN decision. "It was just like the Gold Rush of 1848, with domain name prospectors racing across a virtual country of possible top-level domain names (TLDs) to try and find the gold hidden among them. What constituted domain gold? Anything that anyone else might want — really, really badly."

Ulanoff sees two main problems with the decision. The first: As they did in the 1990s, companies will likely find themselves wrangling over particular desirable URLs, and ICANN could find itself dealing with a "a never-ending series of decisions it doesn't want to deal with." The second: ICANN, in Ulanoff's opinion, is simply charging too much for domain names.

"With this pricing and annual fee plan, there's no way I could have that or www.home.lanceulanoff," Ulanoff writes. "ICANN may believe it's heading off lots of confusion and a hoard of greedy squatters, but I think they're starting a fire in the corporate world and handcuffing everyone else."

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