Websites come with a variety of different domain name endings ("top-level domain names"), ranging from the trusted .com introduced 26 years ago, to the various country specific suffixes such as .uk. Apart from the wide variety of country specific suffixes, the choice of top-level domain names so far has been limited to the 22 so called "generic" top-level domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has, after almost six years of discussions, now voted in favour of lifting the current restrictions in top-level domain names.
Once the changes are implemented, it will be possible to register almost any word in almost any language as a top-level domain name. This would include characters in, for example, Mandarin, Cyrillic or Arabic, and will benefit those who are unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet. It has been estimated that between 500 and 1,000 new domain name suffixes will be registered in the registration period between 12 January and 12 April 2012.
However, this lift in the restriction of what can be registered will not result in everything being registered as a top-level domain name. Applications for a new domain name will cost $185,000 (£114,000), thus rendering them prohibitively expensive for smaller organisations or individual entrepreneurs. The applicant will also have to demonstrate that they have a legitimate claim to the name, as well as being established and "in good standing". Additionally, where multiple parties have legitimate claims, ICANN plans to auction the suffix, unless a deal is reached between the parties. The cost, and the requirement of a legitimate claim, may mean that only well established brands will be able to register their suffix as a top-level domain name, for example .apple or .coke. This could be beneficial for brand owners as it would make policing of trademarks easier and prevent individuals from buying up domain names that brand owners would want and selling them for extortionate prices (the well publicised practice of "cybersquatting").