The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is currently planning on making radical changes to the rules for Web addresses starting on 2012, that will allow potentially thousands of new generic top-level domains to be created, a huge expansion from the current few gTLDs currently available.
A generic top-level domain (gTLD) is one of the categories of top-level domains (TLDs) maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for use in the Domain Name System of the Internet. The core group of generic top-level domains consists of the .com, .info, .net, and .org domains. In addition, the domains biz, name, and pro are also considered generic, although are designated as restricted, because registrations within them require proof of eligibility within the guidelines set for each.
The expansion of the top level domain space is intended to promote competition and consumer choice. As ICANN completes preparations for expansion of the top-level domain space, the Board is working to ensure that key issues (including competition, consumer protection, security, stability and resiliency, malicious abuse issues, and rights protection) will be adequately addressed prior to implementation.
The gTLD expansion will also allow companies to protect their brand by purchasing generic domains such as .hotel or .bank and branded domains such as .apple or .mcdonalds. This will allow companies to secure a branded domain name and have complete control over it by not allowing others to own it. The move opens new possibilities to branding and marketing strategies, as well as a whole new aspect of Search Engine Optimization.
However, the costs are terribly expensive. In order to get a personal gTLD, applications must be made directly to ICANN, and the application fee is an exorbitant $185,000 plus $25,000 a year to operate the registry. If someone else wants the same domain, bidding will determine the winner. More details here: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm
The actual implementation of the new gTLD expansion will be gradual, according to
Karla Valente, director of ICANN’s product services communications: “We have to pace ourselves how we add things to the root,” Valente said, referring to the servers at the heart of the Internet address system that link the textual names people type into a browser with the actual numeric addresses those Web servers use. Those root servers have been greatly upgraded quite recently with the implementation of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) that will facilitate to provide a much greater number of addresses and a migration towards DNSSEC that is meant to make the domain name system more secure.
ICANN’s Board discussion on the matter was guided by community input that provided direction in the implementation of trademark protections, the new registry agreement terms, measures to mitigate malicious conduct, and ensuring root zone stability. The resolutions indicated that many important issues have been properly addressed, including trademark protection, morality and public order, and vertical integration.
You can view a draft of the proposed new gTLD registry agreement, at the following link: http://icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/draft-agreement-specs-clean-28may10-en.pdf