To most Netizens, the acronym "TLD" stands for "top-level domain." But when it comes to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), "TLD" also apparently stands for "true-life drama."
Last June, ICANN announced plans to open up the current list of 22 TLDs (.com, .net, .biz, etc) to anyone who wanted to nominate one of their own. Last January, it began accepting applications for new generic TLDs with this announcement on its website:
Tremendous anticipation, planning, and work drove toward 12 January, 2012, the day ICANN began accepting applications for new gTLDs. Whether you've applied or not, your next question might be: "It's after 12 January. What happens next?"
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Yesterday, ICANN had to shut down its gTLD application process because "a possible glitch in the TLD application system software ... has allowed a limited number of users to view some other users' file names and user names in certain scenarios."
We know what happens next: ICANN's website accidentally spills data about the folks who are applying for new TLDs. Maybe it needed just a scosh more anticipation, planning, and work, eh?
Getting a new TLD isn't exactly like applying for a dog license. Want to establish your very own top-level domain? That'll be $185,000, please -- and that's just to submit an application. It will take another six to nine months before ICANN approves or disapproves it. Got a thumbs-down? Sorry, no refunds.
The folks whose data just got spilled aren't your average schmoes -- they're major corporations and nation states, many of them probably competing for the same domains. (Barring any other glitches, ICANN plans to announce the names of the applicants at the end of this month.) You have to imagine they're not entirely happy with ICANN right now.
A wide-open domain system has benefits for non-U.S. companies, in part because it will allow them to use non-Western-language characters in their names. It has benefits for brands like Disney or Coca-Cola, which can essentially own their own little piece of the Internet. I'm kind of partial to .cringe, myself.
It will be an enormous economic boon for copyright attorneys, who will soon be racking up millions of billable hours policing all those new domains for brand squatters, makers of cheap knockoffs, gripe sites, scammers, and the like. And it will provide many rich paydays to come for domain registrars (more on that in a sec).
But it will be confusing as hell for everyone else. Quick, can you name all 22 of the current TLDs? Me, I get to about 10 and start scratching my head. Imagine a world with hundreds of TLDs -- not including the more than 200 country-code TLDs, like .uk or .us.