ICANN has revealed the 1,930 strings applicants hope to register as new top-level domains (TLDs). The list, and the process, contain cautions for corporate users, and some entertainment.
The "Big Reveal" is but the latest step in a process already 6 years in the making. At the conclusion, 2 or more years from now, the Internet will have a thousand or more new strings to the right of the dot, joining the 22 existing TLDs and 280 country-code TLDs such as .uk.
Applicants paid ICANN $185,000 for each name submitted. ICANN claims it is not making any money despite the $357 million it will realize once all application fees are paid up; the not-for-profit corporation claims to be merely covering its costs.
Writing in Wired, Robert McMillan uncovers some wrinkles in the new TLD process that corporate network administrators will have to watch as the new names come online beginning in 2013. "If a company has a computer on its local network named computer.home and .home suddenly becomes a top-level domain, then there's a chance that any software looking for computer.home could be redirected out to the Internet," McMillan explains. This scenario is not far-fetched, he writes: "Companies are already lining up to take control of the .home and .corp top-level domains, and there is already a lot of Internet traffic looking for computers at those domains... [ICANN is] clearly aware of the potential problem."
You can browse the strings (that's what ICANN calls the names) that applicants have requested on ICANN's site or download the list in one of several formats. Here are some highlights from the list:
Of the 1,930 strings, 1,816 are in English and the rest are in other language scripts. (The new TLD process includes non-English strings as TLDs for the first time.) 1,158 organizations submitted applications, though in reality the number is lower because some submitters made up a separate corporation for each name submitted. A total of 223 strings were submitted by more than one organization; .app was the most popular with 13 entities requesting it. Google requested 98 strings; Amazon, 65; Microsoft, 11; and Apple, 1. An investor-backed company called Donuts.co raised $100 million and submitted 307 names (paying $55.5 million in application fees alone). Another company, Uniregistry, was assembled solely for the purpose of vying for 57 names -- 36 of them in contention with Donuts.co.
Apple is trying for .apple, and no other applicant has requested it. Microsoft's desired strings are mostly product designations such as .azure, .bing, and .skype. Two are more generic: .docs and .live, and as it happens Google wants those strings as well. Amazon applied for its trademarks but in addition wants the rights to a number of generic terms such as .cloud, .free, .game, .music, and .search -- all of which Google also bid for. In all, Amazon and Google are in contention for 21 strings.
ICANN's process encourages submitters of the same strings to get together and negotiate; in some cases a consortium or joint operation might be worked out. This is unlikely in the case of highly charged strings such as .app and .cloud, sought by both Amazon and Google. Next comes a costly arbitration process, followed as a last resort by an (even more costly) auction. Court challenges are anticipated and ICANN has set aside some budget for them.
ICANN has decided it can't work on nearly 2,000 submissions at once, so it has arranged a baroque procedure for batching them up into groups of 500 or fewer. ICANN actually calls this process "digital archery" and it is going on now. Here is The Register's amusing writeup on the process. Applicants request a time slot and then at the designated time push a button. The number of milliseconds off the pre-arranged time (partly) determines which batch they go in. Given that ICANN expects to take 5 months processing each batch, missing out one of the early batches could potentially cost a company massively in money, time-to-market, and reputation. Several companies have sprung up offering to automate the button-pushing to millisecond accuracy; one charges $25,000 for first-batch positioning, another $18,000. This is not a game for small players.