On June 20, 2011 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted on expansion of allowed generic top level domains (gTLD).  The core group of generic top level domains consists of the .com, .info, .net and .org domains.  ICANN's board voted to end most restrictions on the allowed generic top level domains from the 22 currently available extensions (such as .com, .gov, .edu).  Companies and organizations will be able to choose arbitrary suffixes for their internet domain names.  The use of non-latin characters, (such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese) will also be allowed.  It is anticipated that many major corporations will apply for gTLDs based upon their brand name (e.g., .coke, .apple).  ICANN expects the first batch of new gTLDs to be operational by the end of 2012.

"Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.  Today's decision will usher in a new Internet Age," said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of ICANN's Board of Directors.  "We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration." (June 20, 2011, ICANN news release)

ICANN will begin accepting applications for the new gTLDs on January 12, 2012.  The initial price to apply for a new gTLD suffix will be $185,000 with an annual fee of $25,000.  However, applying for a new gTLD is not the same as buying a domain name. As explained by ICANN:  "organizations and individuals around the world can register second-level and, in some cases, third-level domain names. (In a URL such as maps.google.com, "google" is a second-level name and "maps" is a third-level name.) They simply need to find an accredited registrar, comply with the registrant terms and conditions and pay registration and renewal fees. The application for a new gTLD is a much more complex process. An applicant for a new gTLD is, in fact, applying to create and operate a registry business supporting the Internet's domain name system. This involves a number of significant responsibilities, as the operator of a new gTLD is running a piece of visible Internet infrastructure."

Click here to view the new gTLDs frequently asked questions.