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ICANN't Believe It

June 21, 2011 – by Per Christensson

Yesterday, ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) made a decision that will forever change the Web. They announced, that starting in January 12, 2012, users will be able to register domain names with just about any domain suffix, or "top-level domain" (TLD) they choose.

Dot Anything? This means that, instead of having to choose one of the standard .com, .net, .org, or other TLDs, users will be able to make up whatever name they want. For example, if you want to create a cat-lovers website, but the domain you want is already taken, you could just register a name like, "ilike.cats." What if that one is already taken? Just register "ilike.kittens" instead.

The new naming scheme opens up the domain market to an infinite number of possibilities. At first, this may seem like a good idea, since it disincentives cybersquatting by watering down the value of all domain names. However, this decision will also make Web addresses much more confusing. Instead of having to remember simple ".com" names, we'll have to remember all sorts of made up domain name combinations.

ICANN's decision also presents a whole new array of legal problems. Companies like Coke and Pepsi will have to watch for competitive domain names with the suffixes ".coke" and ".pepsi." The new domain names will also make it harder for the average user to distinguish between official websites and knockoff websites. This will also make it easier for phishing websites to fool users into entering their personal information.

As you can probably tell, I think this decision is ridiculous. It doesn't make any sense. The cons significantly outweigh the pros. So why would such an important organization like ICANN make such a horrible decision? I can only think of one answer… Money.

The current domain market is limited by how many desirable names can be registered. This has created a secondary market where people and companies buy domains from the current owners for an agreed upon price. By opening up the domain name system to an infinite number of names, an infinite number of new names can be registered. This means more money goes to domain registrars and less goes to domainers (people that own lots of domains). I have a feeling the major registrars lobbied hard for this decision – and they got their way.

The sad truth is, I don't think anyone wins in this situation. Dot com (.com) domain names will remain the most recognized and most sought after domains. They will continue to demand a premium whenever they are sold. The new wave of domains will be a windfall for domain registrars, but only for a short time. As the domain market becomes more flooded, there will be less reason to register placeholder domains. Domain registrations may actually decrease. Most importantly, the new domain names will make the Web more confusing for everyone. Thanks, ICANN.

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