Say goodbye to dot-com, welcome to dot-anything

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved its most radical change ever in how online domain names are assigned.

Beginning in January 2012, ICANN will be accepting applications for domain names that expand far beyond the limited .com, .net., .org, etc options that exist today.

In what will be an infinitely more confusing system, applicants will be able to register anything they want as a domain extension. So, for example, I would be able to apply for the .luttrell domain, and then I’d be able to make the website http://www.mike.luttrell.

But I probably won’t, because applications for one of the new “vanity” domains will cost $185,000, a price ICANN justifies by saying it needs to cover the cost of processing the applications and preparing for potential litigation and other issues that could arise.

“This may be the dawn of a new age of online innovation in the domain name space,” said ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “The Internet’s addressing system has just been opened up to the limitless possibilities of human imagination and creativity.”

Between January 12 and April 12 next year, the application process will be open. Anyone who just wants to apply will have to pay the $185,000 fee, even if multiple people or companies apply for the same domain. Anyone who doesn’t end up getting the domain will receive only a partial refund.

As for who gets the domain, after April 12, that will be up to a special panel whose job it is to determine which applicant most deserves the domain, based on information presented in the application. That is to say, Sony would probably have no trouble locking in the .ps3 domain but probably would not win a battle against Microsoft in a .xbox360 application.

For the murkier areas, like a battle between, say, Eric Luttrell and myself, ICANN would open up the process to an auction between all the ‘qualified’ applicants.

In other words, the big winner here is ICANN, which is expected to rake in huge sums of money during the application process. However, since it is a non-profit organization, all the funds will “go back to the community for good work,” ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush was quoted as saying.