Unlimited domain names now up for grabs

Internet real estate has just opened a huge new frontier.

Until today Top Level Domain (TLDs) names such as .com or .org have been restricted to just 21, but ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers) has just approved a recommendation  that will allow almost anything from next year.

This paves the way for the controversial .xxx domain name, held up in wrangling for a half decade, along with .mac, .goog, .bank and more. ICANN says any string of letters may be registered, and there will be an independent arbitration process for people with objections.

The decision also introduces internationalised domain names written in non-Latin alphabet characters such Arabic, Chinese and Russian. ICANN has adopted a new system called Punycode to translate other characters into a sequence of letters, digits and hyphens, but there are still some questions that remain to be resolved, a process that could take years.

Expect a free-for-all as ‘cyber-squatters’ look to move quickly to capture brand name real estate, as well as generic terms such as .travel. ICANN says “Trademarks will not be automatically reserved. But there will be an objection-based mechanism for trademark owners where their arguments for protection will be considered.”

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