ICANNICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the non-profit organization that is to all intents and purposes the controlling body and “city-planners” of the Internet. In the past they have controlled the Internet with a rather tight fist, particularly when it came to just what was allowed on the whole Domain name front. However, last week they took a surprisingly big step in opening up and expanding the scope of generic Top Level Domains (gTLD), thereby potentially opening up massive new slices of online real estate in the process.

Now up until this decision, we were all pretty familiar with the .com, .org, .net, and .country-suffix system by which all DNS servers abide by, but with the changes implemented by ICANN, we had better start getting used to the idea of there now being a whole lot more!

Basically what was decided is that anyone or any corporation can now apply to open any top level domain that they want to, meaning that now it is quite possible to go to something like http://www.codeunit.is.awesome or http://www.google.thegoogle in the future. Of course, applying for a new gTLD is not going to be cheap – registering a new top level domain could set you back anything between $100,000 to $500,000 a shot! However, this is all pocket change of course if you think in terms of the big global companies like Coke Cola, who would surely be scrambling to secure their trademarks like http://fanta.thefunsideoflife for example.

And while we as the end-users are now going to have to get used to deal with an Internet that is now much bigger and far more confusing than what it was before, this decision also opens a whole new can of worms in the process: increased name and typo squatting. Already you have advertising and referral sites registering closely named sites like http://www.gogle.com and http://yahoo.net in the hopes of catching incorrectly entered URLs, but with the increased naming possibilities, companies are going to be forced to buy a whole lot more domain names in order to secure their trademarks.

Another interesting development of course will be the increased separation of website and location, as now it is generally easy to figure out where a business or tourist destination is located, judging by the URL of its website. With strict country gTLDs no longer applying, geographically knowing where you are is going to be a whole lot tougher!

Of course, another problem is the fight over domain names should now be a lot more intense, particularly because cities would now be able to apply for their own domain identifier, like http://tourism.strand for example. Obviously the problem is more than a little apparent – there are a lot of Strands in the world you know!

Nevertheless, the online future certainly holds some exciting new developments (which are adding bigger and bigger smiles to the face of search engine operators as we speak) as more and more people jump on the gTLD bandwagon and the domain name gold rush begins – hopefully you’ve got your pickaxe ready for action!