Out-Law News 1 min. read

ICANN opens application process for new 'top-level' domains

The organisation that oversees the addressing system for websites will consider applications for new domains submitted from today.

Last summer directors at ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) voted to increase the number of generic 'top level' domains (gTLDs) from the current number of 22. Top-level domains refer to how the suffixes of addresses are rooted and include familiar address endings such as .com, .org and .net.

ICANN has said it wants to "unleash the global human imagination" by extending the number of top level domains.

"Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organisations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways," an ICANN statement said in June.

However, last month US consumer regulator the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expressed its concern that new gTLDs could expose consumers to the risk of fraud and urged ICANN to take steps to "mitigate" against the risks.

In an open letter sent to ICANN the FTC said that the organisation should operate a "pilot program" to test out how the system for new gTLDs works. This would "substantially reduce" the number of new gTLDs introduced through the first round of applications, the FTC said.

The FTC also urged ICANN to "strengthen" its "contractual compliance program" by hiring more staff and "monitor consumer issues that arise during the first round of implementing the new gTLD program" on an ongoing basis.

Each proposed gTLD should be assessed for risk to consumer harm "as part of the evaluation and approval process" and ICANN should impose a requirement on registrants to verify their identity, the FTC had said.

Last week ICANN said that it was pushing ahead with its application process for new gTLDs as planned. ICANN said each member of its "executive team" had "carefully reviewed every critical aspect" of the system and said "mitigation steps" had been taken to alleviate risks.

In a blog posted in December ICANN senior vice present Kurt Pritz said that the new registry system for gTLDs would "have even greater safeguards than the TLD registries that exist today and will include enhanced protections for trademark holders". He said "the new environment will sharply reduce the need for defensive registrations".

An ICANN spokesperson told Out-Law.com last year that it will cost $185,000 (£114,000) to apply for new web address endings and that companies must demonstrate that they have a legitimate claim to the name they are applying for.

The first round of applications for new gTLDs is open until 12 April. Applicants will have to complete a form containing 50 questions before their request is scrutinised in an evaluation process. ICANN has said that potentially "thousands" of new gTLDs could be introduced within the next year.

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