The Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), the agency in charge of website addresses has temporarily stopped its generic top-level domain application evaluation process. According to the Governments and activists, allotment of such generic domains can lead to a global corporate monopoly over the World Wide Web, by claiming exclusive rights for domains such as .book or .beauty. There are currently just 22 gTLDs, of which .com and .net comprise the lion’s share of online addresses.
A newly reconstituted gTLD committee paid attention to the objections raised by ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee(GAC), which had in April pointed out several problems in the process of handing out gTLDs under a “single registrant” business model. The regular business model for TLD names like .com or .org where the domains names are then resold to other users in an open market on first come, first served basis. Whereas, in case of single registrant model, companies like Amazon and Google could own exclusively .book or .cloud, both generic name strings. This in turn will create monopolistic branding. According to the report over such 70 contract bids have been identified by ICANN.
As the internet becomes an increasingly central part of modern life, and with the addition of new TLDs like .News, .Blog, .Law, .Cooking, .xxx, etc., the total number of domains is expected to explode. ICANN is considering more than 1,800 requests for new web address endings, ranging from the general such as “.shop” to the highly specialized like “.motorcycles.” In addition to individuals and business who want to use these new domains as their primary online address, many millions more will look to secure them as a defensive maneuver to ensure that others do not.
This is not the first problem the generic top-level domain program has run into. Earlier in April ICANN shut down the application process because of a security breach that exposed applicants’ private data, and the application system remained offline until late May.
It must be noted that ICANN has not officially said it has stopped the processing of the closed gTLD applications, but ihas merely frozen it, pending further consultations with governments. Such consultations may take place when ICANN meets in Durban, South Africa, later this month.
The total number of registered domain names passed 250 million in the last quarter of 2012. In June last year, ICANN had received a total of 28 Applications from 15 Corporate houses for Domain extensions from India. Apart from domain extensions for the corporates, ICANN has received applications for regional languages like Arabic, Chinese, Hindi too. In May this year, ICANN had said that it cannot predict outcome of the users and how top level domain offering may impact their behavior on the internet.