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Digital land rush expected for new Internet ‘top-level’ domain names

Rod Beckstrom CEO Internet Corporatifor Assigned Names Numbers (ICANN) organizatiresponsible for regulating domanames speaks Center for Strategic International Studies WashingtDC

Rod Beckstrom, CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization responsible for regulating domain names, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2012. Later this week, the organization will begin accepting applications for new generic top-level domains, the suffixes such as .com, .net or .org, despite mounting pressure from governments and businesses who oppose the costs involved and the control the organization has over the system. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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Updated: January 12, 2012 9:12AM

On Thursday, a digital land rush kicks off what could produce a torrent of new Web addresses for the first time in more than a decade.

ICANN, the non-profit that manages several Internet-related tasks, will start accepting applications to manage new top-level domains — the names that appear at the end of website addresses, such as .com and .org.

The addition of new domain names — .shop is among the potential ones — is part of ICANN’s charter to create an open, dynamic Internet.

Applying to be the overseer of a new top-level domain, or a “registry holder,” doesn’t come cheap. It requires an $185,000 fee — more than twice what ICANN charged in 2000, when it last accepted applications for top-level domains. Getting a new domain name will take time. ICANN says it expects the application process to take up to a year.

The bids, which are being accepted for 90 days, require details about applicants’ finances and technical capability and how they plan to use the domains they’re seeking, ICANN spokesman Brad White says. If more than one equally qualified applicant seeks the same domain name, an auction could be held.

The goal of many overseers is to sell their names to registrars such as The registrars, in turn, resell secondary names — words to the left of the dot — to companies and individuals that want to own Web addresses.

Since overseers are likely to have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on technical support and promotional efforts, many could be large companies such as Canon that want to control the registries they acquire. Only major brands such as Coke and Nike can apply for total-level domain names bearing their names, making them, ah, masters of their own domains.

“For a bank, should it acquire a top-level domain-name, it would leave no doubt about the authenticity of its addresses, reducing the chances of spam and phishing attempts,” says Jim Rogers, a vice president of marketing at Neustar, a provider of registry services that has applied for the “neustar” domain.

The last major addition of a new suffix — .jobs — did not upend the market.

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