Today, most websites end with one of only a few suffixes such as “.com” or “.org,” but the list of top-level domain name possibilities is now set to expand. The keeper of the Internet’s naming system will soon arbitrate applications from businesses, organizations and local governments that would like to run their own.
Google wrote today that it has applied to own domains in several categories, and said it expects to be one of the highest-volume applicants. The blog post gave four examples: three brand and product-related names (“.google,” “.docs,” and “youtube”) and one for its creative possibilities (“.lol”).
Since about half of all websites are today are “.coms,” the new options have plenty of potential, especially in the hands of Google. One might more intuitively locate the latest video by everyone’s favorite teenage heartthrob by going to JustinBieber.youtube, or see shared documents on a topic of interest by typing in “technology.docs.” Google could sell websites in the “.lol” domain to those wanting to own the meme of the moment or signify irony, similar to many hashtags on Twitter.
No one is sure whether new domains will really catch on. Advocates of the controversial proposal say brand-specific domains could make Internet fraud more difficult. But the whole scheme could just become a money sink for companies needing to defensively protect their brand. When ICANN, the governing body controlling domain naming rights, issued the “.xxx” domain last year, the University of Kansas felt it had to purchase “KUgirls.xxx” to fend off a public relations disasters. Google writes it would work with brand owners to develop “sensible rights protection mechanisms” if its applications are approved.