ICANN Launches Generic Top-Level Domains In Non-Latin Scripts

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New gTLDs are hailed as ” the biggest change to the Internet since its inception”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has launched four new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), written in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts. These are the first ever gTLDs in non-Latin characters.

The new “strings” that were introduced into the Internet’s Root Zone on Wednesday are: شبكة (.network), онлайн (.online), сайт (.site) and 游戏 (.game).

Domain name registries will be able to assign the new gTLDs to websites in 30 days, once the period designed to protect trademark rights holders is over.

Brand new

Before ICANN approved radical changes to the domain name system in 2011, very few top-level domains existed; alongside 22 generic ones like .com and .org, there were 280 country code TLDs, but around 1,400 more will now be added, including those in different languages. The new rules allow brands and companies to own suffixes up to 63 characters in length.

internetICANN believes new gTLDs will enhance competition in the domain name space and increase diversity online.

“It’s happening – the biggest change to the Internet since its inception,” said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Generic Domains Division. “In the weeks and months ahead, we will see new domain names coming online from all corners of the world, bringing people, communities and businesses together in ways we never imagined. It’s this type of innovation that will continue to drive our global society.”

The first new gTLDs were expected to go online by November 2012, but the process suffered a number of setbacks, while ICANN was negotiating with corporations and international communities. Industry observers were quick to point out that the new world of top-level domains would mean a much more complex landscape for businesses looking to protect their brands.

The number of applications for new gTLDs has been overwhelming, earning the US-based organisation at least $350 million in registration fees. New domain names will be introduced into the Internet gradually over the next few years.

“Since the launch of the first domain the internet has experienced exponential growth and the emergence of new gTLDs signifies how it will continue to evolve. For example, there are 1.7 billion Arabic speakers and the launch of شبكة effectively opens up the web to the Arab world. Moving forward, organisations will be able to register web addresses in Arabic script, allowing businesses to fully engage with targets in that market and providing a gateway to new regions,” commented Ben Anderson, head of new gTLDs at NetNames.

Experts warn that the situation around trademarks is still not clear, and new gTLDs might cause more harm than good to companies that are not prepared. “Businesses that already applied (including major brands ranging from Google to Amazon) are now building plans for integrating their new gTLD into their online strategies and communicating the benefits to consumers. Business that have not applied must seriously consider both the imminent competitive impact and how to best prepare to apply for their own gTLD in ICANN’s next round,” said Roland LaPlante, CMO at domain registry Afilias.

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