The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is getting ready to vote later this week to open up the Internet naming convention to allow more options.
On Thursday at its meeting in Paris, ICANN, the not-for-profit organization charged with overseeing the Internet's naming scheme, will vote on a proposal that would allow companies to purchase new generic top-level domains ending in almost anything they want. So instead of being limited to .com, .org or .co.uk as the last letters of their Web addresses, companies or organizations could add their company name to the end of their URL. For example, eBay could become .ebay or Intel could be .intel. Even cities could name their Web sites .newyork or .berlin.
But the new names, which could be ready in 2009, won't come cheap. As a result, it's unlikely that individuals will be able to take advantage of the new naming conventions to create more personalized Web sites. The exact price to register these new names isn't yet known, but some experts predict it could cost about $50,000 to register a new domain name.
The high price is also likely to deter cybersquatters. ICANN is expected to give priority to companies or organizations with trademarked names.
The new addressing scheme should alleviate fears that ICANN will run out of addresses. The organization estimated last year that only 17 percent of the original 4 billion network addresses remained available. And it predicted that it would run out of new addresses within the next five years.
Paul Twomey, the CEO of ICANN, told the BBC that allowing the new naming conventions would create new "real estate" on the Internet.
"It's a massive increase in the geography of the real estate of the Internet," he said.
If the proposal is accepted by ICANN's board then almost any extension that is 64 characters or less could be used. My colleague at ZDNet.co.uk points out that this means that the .xxx domain extension, which has been proposed for the adult entertainment industry could be used. ICANN rejected the .xxx application in 2007.