The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the US-based body which is in charge of global internet – has given the green light for delegation or approval of the first 4 new internet domains.
The domains – delegated or approved under ICANN’s New gTLD progam – are شبكة (xn--ngbc5azd) which is the Arabic word for “Web” or “Network” to be managed by International Domain Registry Ltd; онлайн (xn--80asehdb), the Russian word for “Online” to be managed by Core Association; сайт (xn--80aswg) which is Russian for “Web site” also to be administered by Core Association while the fourth domain is 游戏 (xn--unup4y) which is Chinese for “Game” to be managed by Spring Fields.
The four new domains (or “strings” in internet domain industry parlance) represent Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) which come in different scripts and enable internet users to access domain names in their own specific languages. IDNs are currently available as second-level domains and country code top-level domains.
The newly delegated gTLDs are in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts and are the first batch of many gTLDs in various non-Latin scripts such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Hindi that will be introduced in future.
The delegation means that the new domains can now be introduced into the internet’s root zone, which is the central database for the domains. Consequently, the domain name registries – or the organizations approved to operate these and other soon-to-be-delegated domains – can now execute the final processes required to make the delegated domain names available to internet users.
Said Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s generic domains division: “It’s happening – the biggest change to the Internet since its inception. 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.”
Previously, domains only had Latin characters – for instance “.ke”; “.com” or “.net” – but this will be the first time non-Latin characters are used in a generic TLD. According to ICANN, the move builds on the addition of internationalized country-code TLDs in 2010 and is an effort to create a more inclusive internet.
The approval of the new domains follows the conclusion of the Initial Evaluation (IE) phase of the new gTLD program in late August 2013 during which more than 1,700 applications moved to the next step in the program.
Out of the 1,930 new gTLD applications submitted, 1,745 applications passed the IE, 32 went into Extended Evaluation while 121 were withdrawn from the program. Some of the applications that passed the IE moved straight to the delegation or approval phase, while others have to go through additional steps, such as dispute resolution and string contention.
Among the applications that passed through the IE process was South Africa-based UniForum’s application for the dot Africa (“.africa”) domain while the other application submitted by DCA Trust for the same domain did not make it through the IE process and has been referred to an Independent Review Panel (IRP) for further direction.
Other notable domain applications that went through the Initial Evaluation and are awaiting delegation are “.agakhan” to be managed Aga Khan Foundation; “.city” by Sno Sky; “.email” by Spring Madison; “.durban” also applied for South Africa’s UniForum; “.bbc” by UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation; “.mnet” which when approved will be managed by South Africa’s Electronic Media Network Limited (M-Net) and “.akdn” – which stands for “Aga Khan Development Network – also to be managed by the Aga Khan Foundation.
Microsoft could also have the opportunity to have its own domain – “.microsoft” – while Germany’s Berlin city could join South Africa’s Durban by having its own internet identity when its own domain, “.berlin” is finally approved by ICANN.
During the new gTLD programme, ICANN intends to introduce new domains, a process that will result in the expansion of the domain name system from the current 22 gTLDs (for example “.COM”; “.NET” and “.ORG) to possibly 1,400 new names or “strings.”
The additional strings are expected to enhance competition, innovation and choice in the domain name space, providing a wider variety of organizations, communities and brands new ways to communicate with their audiences.