ICANN Begins Expansion of Internet Generic Top-Level Domains

This week saw the Internet take a big step forward in becoming more globally inclusive. The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has introduced four new Internet address suffixes, also known as generic Top-Level Domains or gTLDs. These new gTLDs, the first of 1,400 new additions, are notable in that they are all non-Latin strings.

There are currently 22 gTLDs, including .com, .org, and .edu, to which ICANN is adding the Arabic word for web/network, the Chinese word for game(s), and the Cyrillic words for online and site. A post on ICANN’s blog states that the organization specifically prioritized the international additions as part of its goal of creating a globally inclusive Internet. The organization hopes to improve engagement, commerce, and connectivity among non-native English speakers.

Though the new suffixes have been added to the Internet’s master list of addresses, they aren’t yet available for use. ICANN said that is a “sunrise” period of 30 days in which trademark holders can register their trademarked addresses using the new gTLDs. After that period, operators can open up the domains to the general public.

While global inclusion is a noble goal, the effort has drawn criticism from organizations worried about protecting trademarks across multiple domains. While it’s unlikely that anything will ever supplant .com in the public consciousness, ICANN plans to continue introducing new gTLDs over the coming months and through 2014.

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