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Getting a good domain name these days is like mining for precious metals in your back yard.  Sure you might get lucky every now and then (assuming you dig deep enough) but most of the time your prospecting turns up very little.  However a new proposal by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the organization charged with overseeing all domain names – may make your digging more worthwhile.

The problem with the current system (aka everyone wants a .com domain name)

In 1985 when the first top level domains (or TLDs) were created the idea was that certain organizations would register their domain with the TLD that corresponded with their business.  The first six TLDs were:

  • .com (for commercial businesses)
  • .net (for networking and internet service providers)
  • .org (for organizations and individuals)
  • .gov (for government agencies)
  • .edu (for education institutions)
  • .mil (for US military institutions)

In theory this worked fine.  However over time what happened was that .com became the most popular TLD and everyone wanted a .com domain name.  Furthermore, there were no restrictions to registering a .com domain name even if you weren’t a commercial endeavor and a free for all ensued.  Today there are nearly 77 million registered domain names and the highest percentage of those use .com as the TLD.  So if you are a new business starting out, getting a hold of a .com domain name that folks will remember will be quite a challenge.

Over time ICANN has created new top level domains (.name, .biz and the like) thinking that folks would utilize those TLDs when registering a new domain name (and relieve the stress on the .com domain names).  However registration of domains using these newer TLDs has been sparse at best.  People are more likely to make up words to keep the .com TLD (for example flickr.com) than settle on a less popular TLD (say, flicker.biz).

Enter the new top level domains

The new proposal ICANN put forward at their July 2008 meeting essentially opens up TLDs for registration.  Don’t like the .biz or .net extension?  No problem.  Create your own!  The proposal allows for any combination of up to 64 characters to be used as a TLD.  This essentially creates nearly limitless possibilities for domain names.  As an example, if I wanted to brand my company name as a TLD I could do that and register .tunnel7.

I think this proposal is a great idea.  Rather than have ICANN slowly debate and release TLDs that may or may not catch on we may soon be able to create any TLD we want.  With this ability companies and organizations can get creative with how they want to use domain names, which will more likely result in these alternate TLDs becoming popular.  (An example I’ve seen would be Intel registering .inside so they could then use intel.inside for their domain name.  Pretty cool, huh?)

Now before you get too excited I should mention that this is still a proposal.  However, from what I read the proposal looks to be approved early in 2009 and registration of these new top level domains could happen as early as the second quarter of 2009.

I can definitely see this working.  I don’t think it will happen quickly.  I’m sure .com will still be the most popular TLD for years to come but breaking the stranglehold of the .com TLD for those searching for a domain name will certainly be welcome.  Perhaps in the not too distant future our digging will turn up more options resulting in better domain names.

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