The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
has put to rest three years of speculation by giving final approval to generic Top-Level Domains that they think will be the future of site addresses and brand homes on the Web.

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) are essentially specific destinations for brands. Companies will be able to buy their brand and attach it to a URL. So instead of seeing Pepsi.com, the soda manufacturer could have Pepsi.soda or something similar. It will not be cheap to get your own TLD, with an $185,000 application fee and $25,000 a year to run the registry. Yet, some Internet advocates are crying foul, saying that gTLDs will create new headaches in cybersquatting, trademark issues and excessive spam.

"I think this is probably the biggest change to the the Internet since we have had it," said Jeff Ernst, Forrester analyst.

The price tag for a gTLD may cut down on the overall instances of cybersquatting, except for the most affluent spam networks and domain registries. ICANN will be accepting applications for new top-level domains between January 12 and April 12, 2012.

ICANN is providing safeguards to ward off mass cybersquatting. The Applicant Guidebook has gone through seven significant revisions since 2008 that incorporated 1,000 or so comments from the public. The evaluation procedures provide for background screening of pre-applicants that measure business history and look for history of cybersquatting. It will conduct string-similarity reviews to determine if the domain is like anything else currently on the Internet and assess the potential security risks of creating a new TLD.

There are currently 22 TLDs that range from the original .com to .org and .net. ICANN's final approval of the gTLDs will certainly make that number skyrocket but the question is what the final affect on the Internet will be. Are gTLDs the first salvo in a new Web land rush or will it be a source of new innovation for the next decade of Internet development?

The Biggest Thing to Happen to the Internet Since .Com?

Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst believes this is one of the biggest things to happen to the Internet.

"I think this is probably the biggest change to the the Internet since we have had it," Ernst said over the phone. "A lot of the biggest brands are figuring out the requirements. It makes a lot of sense as a brand owner to have as much control over your brand as possible. Why be stuck behind .com when you can own your own primary domain and control the secondary domains you issue within your domain?"

Ernst points out that there are stringent technical guidelines to obtaining a gTLDs and the ability to administer it. There is a nine-month application process and brands must have the ability to effectively administer secondary domains. This could increase corporate IT spending as brands feel the need to get their own TLDs but then must adhere to ICANN's policies.

"Many of the biggest brands are planning to apply for their .brand TLD, but many marketing leaders I've talked with look at this as a nuisance and are skeptical about whether Internet users will embrace them," Ernst said in a blog post.

Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility lambasts ICANN in a blog post, calling ICANN and the domain registries the "Domain Industrial Complex" and calling shame to all that helped approve this decision.

"Has the horrific economic saga of the last few years taught us nothing?" Weinstein wrote. "Is there no sense of ethical or moral outrage among those persons who are truly concerned about creating the best possible future for the entire Internet and Internet community, not just for a comparatively few "domain exploitation" tycoons and would-be tycoons?"