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ICANN approves customized top-level domains

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ICANN, the organization that oversees internet addresses, will soon allow anyone to apply for his very own generic top-level domain (gTLD). In other words, you'll soon have the power to put almost anything at the end of your url, eschewing existing top-level domains such as ".com" or ".edu."

"This is a historic resolution," said ICANN chairman Peter Dengate-Thrush, during a conference call with reporters, just after the organization's annual meeting in Paris. "You should see this as being as significant as Margaret Thatcher's decision to liberalize the telecoms market in the UK. This is a decision to fully liberalize the TLD space."

ICANN estimates it will begin taking applications in April or May of next year. The fee for each application will be "in the low six figures in American dollars," and the first customized gTLDs will likely arrive in the fourth quarter of 2009.

The organization has also agreed to "fast track" certain IDN ccTLDs - country code top-level domains that use non-Latin characters. You know: Russia's country code is currently "ru," but it wants the Cyrillic equivalent.

Sorting out non-Latin codes for every country on earth will take a good two years, but ICANN wants a quicker fix for countries like Russia and China. "The issue of how to express country codes in characters other than Roman characters is an exceptionally complicated one, technically and in terms of policy," Dengate-Thrush said. "The internet has always relied on a table that outlines all two letter country codes, and that table is in English...It may take up to two years to develop a new table.

"In the meantime, there are clearly some countries, like Russia, who need internationalized country codes much sooner."

But this fast track is only so fast. ICANN still needs to approve an actual plan for the likes of Russia and China, and this will likely come at its next board meeting, which hits Cairo in November.

Plus, the organization has finally put an end to domain tasting. Existing ICANN rules allowed anyone to return any domain within five days without paying a penny. But this allowed net miscreants to repeatedly "test the marketability" of thousands upon thousands of addresses. That five-day grace period now applies to only 10 per cent of the domains an outfit registers in a given month. ®

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