Last week ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) announced significant changes in the way web domains will begin appear. In addition to the most common web suffixes such as .com and location specific domains like .co.uk, domain names can now be based on any string of letters, allowing the registration of thousands of new domain names. Businesses will now be allowed to apply for a far wider range of domains including more specific locations like .london and .scotland and suffixes relevant to particular industries such as .bank, .flight, .entertainment or .gamble. The existing system categorises web addresses under 260 geographic and general names. The new domain names will begin to appear next year.
There has been concern among the web community as the changes will surely make the web a more complex and expensive place for small businesses and home users, while affecting web security and opening up more opportunities for fraudsters and cybersquatters. Small companies will find it more expensive to maintain their web presence as they be will be forced to buy a lot more domains. The pricing of the new domains will also vary more.
One of the biggest concerns is that the changes could lead the way to a huge online red light district where all adult sites would carry the .xxx or similar suffixes. ICANN had cleared this type of domain then later withdrew it. The process of clearing a new suffix involves the the applicant going through an initial review where anyone can raise concerns on aspects such as racism or trademark issues though if no objection is raised approval will be very quick.
Other changes in consideration include the use of non-English characters in web addresses which would allow Chinese or Arabic letters to appear. The demand for these type of names has been increasing due to the fact that the the internet expands to non English speakers and those who cannot easily type English characters. This particular type of change would definitely be positive for web accessibility.
BBC News Article on the subject: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7475986.stm
BBC Video Report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7474203.stm