There's been a lot of media attention on the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) process in the last few days, which is a good thing. Unfortunately most of it is badly written, misleading or simply misinformed.
Let's look at the reality.
There are a further 248 country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) — such as ".ie", ".im" etc. — I won't list them here!
During the ICANN meeting in Paris the new TLD process was started.
What that means in plain English is that ICANN said "let's do this", but they didn't say "how", "when" or "how much".
In reality what has happened so far is that there has been a LOT of discussion and debate and disagreement. There will be more to come in the coming weeks and months as the process moves forward.
First off ...
Can anyone get a TLD?
No. In order to get a TLD you would need to meet criteria on multiple levels, both financial and technical. A lot of the media coverage seems to suggest that just about anyone who wants to can run their own domain extension — the reality is that they can't.
How much will it cost?
The application fee is currently set at $186k, however you would really need to have a couple of million in the coffers if you wanted to actually launch a TLD. The application fee does not cover any legal costs, backend costs, marketing, staff, PR etc., Depending on the TLD you are interested in setting up you might also need to have lobbyists working with you.
When will the new TLDs be available?
At the moment there is no exact date. ICANN is pushing for opening the application process in Q1 of 2010. Bearing in mind that applications won't be accepted immediately and that any new TLD operator would need a "ramp up" period, I doubt if there would be any launched until 2011 at the earliest.
What about trademark holders? Will people be able to "squat" on brand names easily?
Trademark holders have been engaged in the process and the IRT report was published recently. In essence TM holders' concerns will need to be addressed as part of the process, though other parties rights should not be ignored.
Who is planning on launching new TLDs?
Nobody knows exactly who will be applying, as some people are in "stealth" mode, but there is a partial list of possible TLDs here.
The applicants fall into several categories:
How much will registering one of these new domains cost?
The cost for registering a domain name will depend on the registry operator.
What about IDNs?
Some organisations are trying to launch IDN TLDs (i.e. domain extensions that not only support non-Latin characters, but are actually made up of non-Latin characters)
Should small businesses owners be concerned?
In short — no. Without knowing which new TLDs will launch it's impossible to give sage advice to small business owners at the moment, I would, however, encourage them to "keep an eye open". If a New York based business doesn't register the corresponding .nyc domain, for example, they could end up missing out on a fantastic opportunity. However the same business wouldn't gain much from registering a .paris ...
What about privacy?
This is still a matter that is being debated. If new registry operators were to adopt a Whois policy similar to that of .tel (Telnic) which protects private individuals it would be ideal.
What about spam? What about phishing?
Nobody is going to be able to setup a TLD for the sole purpose of abuse. Anyone who tells you otherwise is seriously misinformed. Spam and phishing isn't a TLD specific problem anyway.
If anyone has any other questions or queries they feel need addressing please let us know via the comments and I will do my best to respond.
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