Who benefits from the great .pizza domain grab of 2012?

ICANN says the Internet is about to get a whole lot bigger. But that may not be a good thing. 

Welcome to the great ICANN domain name grab of 2012.

This week the Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers, or ICANN, published a list of the companies and individuals applying for new top-level domain names such as .pizza, .jeep., and .lol. The applicants include Samsung, which is laying claim to .samsung, and the BBC, which (quite naturally) wants .bbc. In all, some 1,930 applications have been made.

"This is an historic day for the Internet and the more than 2 billion people around the world who depend on it. The Internet is about to change for ever," said Rod Beckstrom, President and CEO of Icann, according to the Wall Street Journal. “If even three-quarters of these applications are approved, the number of top-level domains will expand four-fold."

The Internet is going to change forever! Bold words. Is Beckstrom right? 

Well, yes, in a sense. By expanding Web addresses past the traditional .com or .biz or .org, ICANN is making the World Wide Web a much bigger place. But critics argue that ICANN may not be making the World Wide Web a better place. GigaOm's Mathew Ingram, for instance, calls the ICANN domain land grab a "train wreck," with only a few real beneficiaries. 

"In the end," Ingram writes, "this massive domain-name expansion really helps no one, except for domain registrars and ICANN itself. Unfortunately, there is no way to undo it or mitigate the outcome because ICANN is in sole control of the process. Welcome to your new Internet." In other words, the domain squatters and ICANN are going to get a payday, and the rest of us are just going to have to deal with a plethora of weird URLs. 

Companies, meanwhile, are going to be forced to work quickly to lock down any URLs associated with their brand. (It will cost you $185,000 to apply for a new top-level domain name.) Over at ZDNet, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols suggests that the whole thing boils to a money-making ploy by ICANN. 

"ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom claims that these new TLDs will benefit users by creating domain name registry competition," Vaughan-Nichols writes. "I can’t see it. I just see more confusion and companies have to waste a lot of money protecting their trademarks on hundreds more TLDs. What I do see though is that Beckstorm has admitted that ICANN has collected more than $352 million in new TLD application fees."

Thinking about dropping close to 200K on a new top-level URL? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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