Adrienne McAdory, a Washington military contractor, remembers exactly when she learned the Internet was about to get a lot bigger. She was at work, at the Pentagon in 2011, and she saw an article about a nonprofit group called ICANN, which oversees the Internet. She saw that ICANN was going to expand the number of generic top-level domain names from fewer than 20 to what ultimately became nearly 2,000 and that visiting the Web was never going to be the same again. ¶ And she knew she wanted a piece of it. ¶ First, some terminology. A second-level domain name is everything that comes before the dot in the Web address: Facebook. EBay. Google. These are easy to buy — if the address you want is available, you can purchase it for less than $20 with a click online. The top-level domain of a Web address is everything that comes after the dot: the .gov, the .org, the .mil. They are a foundational muscle of the Internet. ¶ What ICANN, the California-headquartered Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, was offering was the chance to create and buy what comes after the dot. All McAdory needed was the $185,000 application fee. Which she had, because, she explains, “I’m old, and I’m frugal” (she’s 42). So she worked through the lengthy application process, named her company “Atgron,” and, two months ago, learned she’d had won the rights to own a domain: .wed.
McAdory was part of a land grab — something that could fundamentally change the way average users experience the Internet.
(Tobey/The Washington Post/Source: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)) - Companies with multiple applications for new Web suffixes.
Google and Amazon are leading the rush for new Web suffixes such as “.book,” “.shop” and “.movie” in bids to ICANN.
Adding domains such as ‘.corp’ and ‘.buy’ could lead to confusion and fraud, they say.
Until now, the largest expansion of top domain names occurred in 2001. That was a small endeavor: .biz, .info, .aero, etc. None of them became hugely popular. The current expansion will include about 1,900 new Web names. Over the next few months, users will be able to visit sites at .luxury, .gay, .mom and .bible, to name just a few.
Ask Brad White why this is happening —
Is the Internet too crowded
? — and he chuckles. “The premise of that question is that need dictates innovation,” says White, the director of global media relations for ICANN, which was founded in 1998 in response to a proposal by the federal government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. But need, White says, doesn’t dictate innovation. “No one demanded Facebook” before Mark Zuckerberg introduced it. “No one demanded Twitter.” Sometimes the technology is invented, and then users figure out what it’s good for.
McAdory’s vision: lots of engaged couples want their own wedding sites, but the addresses they want aren’t available because other couples are already parked on them. Through the .wed domain, couples could purchase an inexpensive address — MarkandJessica.wed — for two years, long enough to see them married. After that, the site’s cost would drastically increase, pricing the couple out, leaving the space open for a new Jessica and Mark.
From a business side, one sees why this is a big deal: competing interests scrabbling to stake out more space in the virtual world. But culturally, it also reflects the fact that the Internet is still relatively new — the equivalent of the party-line era of the telephone. What we have now doesn’t begin to look like what we’ll have in even 10 years. ICANN is in the final stages of application evaluations. New sites could appear as early as late September. “People,” says White, “are going to sit down at their browsers and see a whole new world.”