A massive overhaul of internet domain names takes place this week, which will unlock the market dominance of a handful of multibillion-dollar technology giants.
At present, there are only 22 generic domain names, not including country codes such as .co.uk, with the likes of Nasdaq-listed groups VeriSign and Neustar running .com and .biz respectively. On Wednesday, that list will go through its biggest ever expansion, with 300 additional domain names from .group to .sex expected – in the past only the occasional .info and .xxx have been added.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the industry regulator set up by Bill Clinton when he was president – will also unveil the names and applications of companies looking to own and operate the names. UK-based technology group CentralNik has applied for 60, including .group, .college and .gay, on behalf of itself and clients, with each application costing $185,000 and running to 200 pages.
The announcement will not necessarily settle who runs each domain, as there could be situations in which more than one company has come up with a particular domain name idea. If more than one company is approved, they will have to negotiate among themselves who runs which name – otherwise it goes to auction.
ICANN has gone through a six-year process trying to open up the market, running a detailed application process that ensures any company pitching for the names has the financial capability and technical infrastructure to guarantee data protection in the event of natural disasters or cyber hacking.