- A TLD is the rightmost label starting from the last dot in a web address (e.g. .com, .net, .biz). The domain namespace originally had eight TLDs. In 2000, seven new TLDs were introduced, and in 2004, eight more were made available. In 2012, ICANN launched the New gTLD Program which resulted in the massive expansion of the domain namespace. As of today, more than 1,000 new gTLDs have been delegated to the root zone.
- New gTLDs offer greater flexibility for individual registrants to create memorable, innovative names for their websites. They also ease the overcrowding in the legacy gTLD domain market.
- As New gTLDs open up opportunities for new registries and registrars to enter the domain name industry, individual registrants have more choices when purchasing services.
- New gTLDs also could cause widespread confusion, as users may have to learn the new addresses of websites that they are using.
- In addition, users may be exposed to fraud, counterfeiting, and identity theft when criminals take advantage of this confusion to create hostile sites with new gTLDs.
What are new gTLDs?
When you type a web address, it usually ends with .com, .net, .org, and so on. These labels are called the generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). Before 1998, the domain namespace consisted of only eight gTLDs and over 250 ccTLDs – the top-level domains associated with countries and territories, such as .ca for Canada and .fr for France. Under contracts with ICANN, registries operate these gTLDs and ccTLDs.
After 2000, this digital landscape started to change. That year, ICANN introduced seven new gTLDs including .biz, .info, and .museum; in 2004, eight more, including .asia, .travel, and .xxx, were made available. Based on the results of these two trial rounds, ICANN communities produced a set of principles and recommendations on implementing new gTLDs over 18-month long policy discussions. After the adoption of this policy, the New gTLD Program was officially launched in 2012, commencing a massive expansion of the Internet. More than 1,930 new gTLD applications were received from around the world, and as of today, over 500 have been rolled out and are in use. The release of new gTLDs means that a website won’t have to be a dot com or dot org or dot biz anymore – it could be a dot whatever you like, in whatever language you like.
Why new gTLDs matter to you?
When organizations, brands, and communities create their web addresses with new gTLDs, this can make it easier for you to discover, memorize, and validate their online presence. For example, gTLDs can associate brands with their areas of expertise (e.g. .shop, .luxury, .bank), appeal to groups defined by their locations, languages, and orientations (e.g. .london, .中国, .christian), and verify the online identity of companies and services, especially when they have their own gTLDs (e.g. .google, .apple). Similarly, new gTLDs offer much greater flexibility for individual registrants like you to create memorable, innovative names for your future websites. Furthermore, new gTLDs open up opportunities for prospective registries and registrars to enter the domain name industry; this in turn will give registrants more options when purchasing services.
The creation of new gTLDs also brings new challenges. It has the potential to cause widespread confusion, as you may have to learn the new addresses of websites that you have already been using. As a related point, you may also be exposed to fraud, counterfeiting, and identity theft when criminals take advantage of this confusion to create hostile sites with new gTLDs. For example, if a criminal organization launches a phishing attack by creating a .bank site which replicates the website of a reputable bank, customers of that bank will be in danger if they trust the replica site and reveal their personal and financial information.
What is ICANN’s role in new gTLDs?
One of the key responsibilities of ICANN is introducing and promoting competition in the registration of domain names, while ensuring the security and stability of the domain name system. As a critical way to fulfill this responsibility, ICANN has developed and implemented the New gTLD Program, which enhances competition, enlarges consumer choice, and enables innovation in the domain name industry. At present, ICANN is operating the program on an ongoing basis and reviewing its outcome.
What are the details about the new gTLD Program?
From 2005 to 2007, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), ICANN’s main body that makes global Internet policy, led a wide variety of community stakeholder groups to conduct policy development work on new gTLDs. Representatives from government, individuals, civil society, business, intellectual property consultancies, and technical community were engaged in discussions on questions such as the benefits and risks of new gTLDs, how gTLDs should be allocated, and the contractual conditions that should be applied to new gTLD registries. This work resulted in a set of 19 policy recommendations, implementation guidelines, and high level principles on new gTLDs, which the ICANN Board adopted in June 2008. A thorough brief to the policy development work on new gTLDs can be found here.
Afterward ICANN’s work focused on creating an application and evaluation process for new gTLDs that is aligned with the policy recommendations. Integrating community input through the public comment process and face-to-face sessions during ICANN Public Meetings, the gTLD Applicant Guidebook went through several versions of edits. In June 2011, ICANN Board approved the final Guidebook and launched the New gTLDs Program. The first round of new gTLD applications ran from January 2012 to June 2012.
Since then, ICANN has been focusing on implementing the program in terms of evaluating the new gTLD applications, resolving string contentions (i.e. more than one registry applied for the same string), testing approved strings, and delegating new gTLDs to the root zone. To prepare for future rounds of new gTLD applications, ICANN has planned several sets of reviews related to the Program. In parallel, GNSO’s discussion group, which consists of representatives across different stakeholder communities, is analyzing the issues that occurred during the first round of new gTLD applications and setting the scope of future policy changes.
How the At-Large community has contributed to new gTLDs?
Our community has taken a keen interest in new gTLDs and has strived to protect end users from fraud, abuse, and other potential risks associated with sensitive strings. Furthermore, we provided policy advice on the practical implementation process of the first round of new gTLDs applications.
During the ICANN 37 Nairobi Public Meeting in March 2010, the ICANN Board of Directors followed our advice and recognized the importance of an inclusive New gTLDs Program. It then asked the ICANN community to develop a sustainable approach to support applicants requiring assistance in applying for and operating new gTLDs. In direct response to this request, we worked collaboratively with GNSO via a working group and co-created the Applicant Support Program (ASP) that provided cost reductions and technical and legal assistance to new gTLD applicants from underserved regions. Check out the ASP milestone reports and learn more about this program.
Furthermore, the Applicant Guidebook provides our community a specific role to file objections against new gTLD applications that raise public interest concerns (see 3.3.2). By the March 2013 deadline for filing objections, our community examined multiple new gTLD proposals in great detail, engaged in intensive consultation regarding these strings, drafted and submitted objections against three .health applications. While our objections were ruled against, we exerted great effort in advocating for consumer rights and urging registries to place public welfare interests before commercial interests.
At present, our community members are reviewing the outcome of the first round of new gTLD applications and participating in GNSO’s discussion group on this topic. Through these efforts, we aim to prevent issues in the first new gTLD application round from reoccurring in the future rounds, particularly in regard to the onerous eligibility requirements of the Applicant Support Program and the Community Priority Evaluation.
Furthermore, public interest commitments (PICs) are currently at the center of our focus for new gTLD issues.
How can you get involved?
Do you want to learn about policy issues concerning new gTLDs? Do you want to ensure that users’ rights are protected in this great expansion of the Internet? Join At-Large’s New gTLDs Working Group!
This Working Group is open to anyone, even if you are not a member of the At-Large community. You may get to know policy experts from our community, participate in its mailing list discussions, and join their conferences virtually and face-to-face. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to send your membership request. If you just want to observe in this Working Group, you may simply subscribe to its mailing list.