What's in a domain name? Google, Amazon pay up to find out

As companies vie for valuable Web real estate, the real winner emerges in call for new top-level domains: ICANN's bottom line

You gotta love ICANN. Every time the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers does anything, it's usually a cause for amusement.

Last week, what passes for the sole official governing body of the InterWebs released nearly 2,000 proposed new generic Top Level Domains, along with the names of the 1,100 organizations that bid for the new gTLDs. It also released the names, email addresses, and phone numbers for all of these deep-pocketed groups onto the Web. Oops.

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Today ICANN apologized for that gaffe, which follows on the heels of a similar one last April. Yes, these are the people who get to determine the Web addresses for the entire planet. Perhaps they should just change their name to ICANT and be done with it.

Still, the full list of 1,930 proposed new domains offers up interesting nuggets of information about who bid for what.

For example, Google alone has applied for more than 100 of the new domains, including .ads, .android, .blog, .docs, and strangely, .dog. Amazon is seeking more than six dozen (.author, .book, .cloud, .free, .game, and .wanggou among them).

They're not alone. Google and Amazon are among seven companies seeking to control .cloud and 13 that want to own .app. By contrast, Apple has applied for exactly one domain -- .apple -- all by its lonesome. Apparently, nobody wants to mess with Apple on that score. Can you blame them?

As for Facebook and Twitter, they applied for exactly zero new domains between them -- not even .like (Amazon went for that one).

Then there are the completely oddball domains. Would you trust a banking website that ends in .cashbackbonus? What kind of daffy site do they have in mind for .duck? Is there any point in visiting any site that ends in .fail? Or .foo? WTF is someone going to do at .wtf?

Yet these are all among the contestants vying to convince ICANN to pick them over all the others. Will these new domains change how you surf the Web forever? Let me put it this way: You spend a lot of time at .museum or .travel or .name sites? I didn't think so.

But adding dozens of new domains will prove to be a nice payday for domain registrars, as large companies will be forced to lock down every variation of their brands with every new TLD in a process known as "defensive registration." Nearly 80 major brands, including HP, Samsung, Dell, P&G, and Coca Cola, have signed a petition protesting the new domains.

Have I mentioned that ICANN's governing board is made up largely of domain registrars? Or that two large registrars -- Donuts Inc. and Afilias -- applied for more than 300 new gTLDs apiece? Probably just a coincidence.

It's also a sweet payday for ICANN itself. With each organization forking over $185,000 just for possibly winning the chance to control a single TLD, ICANN has pocketed $357 million in this process. (And you thought Ticketmaster was a rip-off.) That's before ICANN holds its auction for who gets to control .app, .cloud, and other hotly contested domains where companies like Amazon and Google get to bid against one another. Where can I get a job like that?

ICANN isn't required to approve a single new domain in this process, though at the very least it's likely to approve some TLDs using non-Western characters, sorely need by the Asian and Arab Internet domains.

As for the rest, your guess is as good as anyone's. And if new gTLDs do get approved, well, be sure to visit my new blog at MassiveICANNscam.wtf

What domain would you like to see added to the Web? Post your candidates (and a PayPal payment for $185,000) below, or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "What's in a domain name? Google, Amazon pay up to find out," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.