The Internet – or at least its namespace – just got bigger. Early this morning, while most of Australia was eating breakfast or getting ready for work, four new top-level domains were added to the Internet's domain name root zone.
The new TLDs are a product of the drawn out, and frequently fraught, process to create new 'generic' top-level domains, run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
The four new gTLDs all use non-Latin scripts: شبكة ("web" in Arabic), онлайн ("online" in Russian), сайт ("site") and 游戏 ("game" in Chinese). In total, the gTLD process will result in expansion of top-level domains from 22 to up to 1400.
More domains will be added to the root progressively. "ICANN’s New gTLD Program was designed to facilitate a measured rollout of new domains so as not to disrupt the Domain Name System," ICANN said in a statement.
"The gTLDs from the New gTLD Program will be introduced into the Internet securely and steadily over the next few years."
Following initial evaluation and pre-delegation testing of the new TLDs, ICANN hands off to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which liaises with the US Department of Commerce and VeriSign, which runs two of the root name servers for the Internet's Domain Name System.
"We filled out some documentation earlier in the week on behalf of the .شبكة ['shabaka'] team, so that process took a couple of days, and here we are today. At 5.30am this morning the name was entered into the root as the very first Arabic gTLD ever," said Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services. ARI has handled applications for a number of gTLDs for overseas and Australian organisations, including .melbourne and .sydney on behalf of the Victorian and NSW governments.
More than 30 Australian businesses and non-profit organisations have applied for new top-level domains. Australian applicants include banks (.anz for ANZ; .nab and .ubank for the NAB; and .netbank, .commbank and .cba for the Commonwealth Bank); universities, including Bond University, LatTrobe University, Monash and RMIT; SBS; Australia Post; the AFL; and ISP iiNet.
The first four new gTLDs now enter a 60-day sunrise period that allows brands to protect their trademarks. For .شبكة this will be followed by a 30-day 'landrush' period for contended high-value domain names. "Ninety days from now we'll be on a first-come, first-served basis, which is pretty much how you buy a .com or a .com.au right now," Kinderis said.
Websites using the new domains won't be able to go live until the end of the sunrise period.
"ICANN does allow the registry to have up to a hundred names for its own use," Kinderis said. "We will be using .شبكة names for our own use as soon as we can. So there will start to be some names being used but we have to wait 120 days from when we signed our contract to allow name collision issues to be dealt with. The 13th of November is when you'll start to see the first شبكة names being used."
ICANN has been the target of significant amounts of criticism during the gTLD process. Initially the organisation had intended to perform initial processing of the 1930 applications for top-level domain in batches of 500, with batching determined by a method dubbed 'digital archery' (a decision that created a short-lived digital archery industry – the method was based on clicking a button as close as possible to a nominated time). ICANN subsequently backed down on batching. The length of the process has also been the subject of criticism.
"I think it's fair to say I've been critical along the way [of the process]," Kinderis said "I think ICANN have moved slowly," the CEO said. However, he added that ICANN has had a "tough job". "It is a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up organisation," Kinderis said. "When you have that many voices yelling at you all day, it's very hard to please everybody all the time... But today we're a lot better off than where we were yesterday."
"For this company [ARI] from Melbourne to be behind the very first new gTLD and running the technology for it – it's only the first for what will be very many to come – we're super excited," Kinderis said.
"And you think hopefully very shortly you're going to see .catholic that we'll be running globally for the Catholic Church, .ibm, on behalf of one of the biggest technical organisations on the planet and we're doing their technology, .sony... Today is a monumental day for this organisation and one that everyone on my staff are super proud to be involved in.
"We think it really puts Melbourne on the map, and Australia on the map, as far as being a technology provider on this scale. Today we're running a significant piece of the Internet."