Dot-com domain names are likely to be worth a little less on the open market after a major announcement by the body that governs Internet standards. The announcement could ease demand for easy-to-remember domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that it was accepting proposals for seven new top-level domains (TLDs). The new domains would add to the ever-popular .com, net, .org, .mil, .gov, and .edu domains already in use. In October, ICANN received some 47 proposals from domain name registrars seeking to add their own TLDs. Last week, ICANN announced the winners:

  • .aero—managed by Belgium's Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, this TLD is for the air transport community, including airlines, aerospace companies, airport authorities, and governmental organizations. Initially, only airlines and airports will be allowed to use this space.
  • .biz—managed by JVTeam, LLC, this TLD is expected to ease the crunch in the .com space. This TLD is for businesses and corporations and will have rules similar to the .com TLD.
  • .coop—managed by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), this TLD is solely for business cooperatives. The NCBA's proposal requires that anyone seeking a domain name under this TLD be a member of the NCBA or the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).
  • .info—managed by Afilias, LLC. This TLD is preparing to handle some 125,000 registrations on the first day alone. This TLD will be open to the general public.
  • .museum—managed by Museum Domain Management Association. According to their proposal, the TLD will be restricted to those entities meeting the definition of a museum as described by the International Council on Museums.
  • .name—managed by the British company Global Name Registry. The most unique among winning TLDs, this proposal aims to create a registry hierarchy such as "allen.jones.name," where the registrar (in this case, the Global Name Registry) would maintain "jones.name," and I could own the "allen" domain.
  • .pro—managed by RegistryPro in Ireland. This TLD also uses restricted registrations to give structure to professions such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants. The proposal initially offers space in the .law.pro, .med.pro, and .cpa.pro areas. The proposal would add other professions, such as dentists, in the future.

Despite the fact that more than half of the new TLDs will have restrictions on who can apply for them, ICANN's announcement should prove to be a big bonus for more than just Web server administrators. All proposed TLDs have provisions for their first few days of operation and protection of trademarks. Some TLDs even offer a preliminary registration period open only to trademark owners.

Either way, domain name registration companies, ISPs, and Web server administrators will be very busy during the first half of 2001, when the first TLDs should start hanging out their shingles. ICANN has some contract negotiations to complete with the winners, and the winners have to start lining up registration companies to prepare for the impending rush of applicants.

Speculators and cybersquatters might be disappointed, however, because many applicants will have provisions discouraging the practice of hoarding domain names. Knowing that most of us qualify for space only in the .info, .biz, and .name TLDs, the expansion might do little to ease the current name crunch. Will any of these TLDs be as popular as com? Who knows, but .biz looks promising.