Get ready to be a bit more confused about Web site addresses.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Named and Numbers today revealed which generic top-level-domains that companies and organizations have applied for, a major step in the six-year-long process to expand the domain name system to create more competition in a world dominated by dot-com names. For consumers, it means a new way of typing in URL, moving beyond the standard .com or .url addresses.
"It's a historic day for the Internet," said ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom. "The internet is about to change forever."
For the first time, brands can have their own TLDs, also known as "strings." And many are. Among the brands that have secured their domain extensions are .Google, which we know about, but also Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Dell. Others include Sony, Nokia, Netflix, Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo, and AOL.
Others are gunning not for their own names, but to land the contract to run and manage the .TLD, the way that Verisign runs .com.
Google was particularly aggressive in applying for TLDs. In addition to .Google, it applied to nab .android, .chrome, .cloud, .lol, .vip, and .wow. Amazon likewise had multiple applications beyond its own name, including .book, .fire., .music, and .free. Microsoft has applied to cover several of its brands, including .azure, .hotmail, .skydrive, and .skype. Symantec also applied for .cloud, alongside .protection and .antivirus.
Domains such as .home, .free, and .movie were among the names with multiple applicants. ICANN officials said they encourage different parties to work together and partner on domain names, saying it would give priority to community-based TLD applications.
A couple of eyebrow-raising TLDs include .sex, .porn, and .sucks. ICANN said it has taken measures to protect companies and brands from being exploited under these domains. The group added that it has the right to take back TLDs if a party has shown it is abusing the domain.
Tech companies aren't the only ones getting in on the TLD action. Consumer brands include American Express, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, and AllState, which have all applied for multiple domains.
Here's the full list.
Even after today's reveal, there will be plenty of work ahead. While brands will simply get their names because they have the trademarks, there will be cases that are less clear cut. The next couple of months is an open comment period in which anyone can file a complaint. Companies, and even governments, can object.
None of the applications will be approved until after a rigorous and objective review process, Beckstrom said. The new TLDs aren't expected to show up until April or May of next year.
ICANN is evaluating the applications in batches of 500 names at a time, and the sheer volume and complexity of the process will mean it will take a long time. The process will stretch into next year. "2013 will be something of a free a TLD free for all," said Warren Adelman, CEO of Go Daddy, the world's largest domain registrar.
Ultimately, this effort could reshape the landscape of the Web. Some companies -- such as Canon, which has said it will use .Canon -- are expected to begin branding themselves using their new TLDs. At the same time, if some of the new generic strings take off, it could make it easier for businesses and consumers to find domain names they want.
The applicants have spent big money to try to make their claim on new Internet space. Each applicant paid $185,000 per string just to apply, plus they also had to put up cash to assure ICANN that they have the financial heft to run a domain registry.
Creating so many more TLDs could also lead to consumer confusion. And shortly after ICANN approved this new program, .