History of Domain TLDs

Welcome to Just The Word! As this is our first blog entry, let’s take a moment to review the relatively short history of domain names — specifically top-level domains (the part after the dot), and where things stand today.

Six generic top-level domains (TLDs) made their debut in January 1985:

  • .com – for commercial entities
  • .net – for internet service providers
  • .org – for non-profit organizations
  • .edu – for educational institutions
  • .gov – for US government entities
  • .mil – for the US military

As time passed, good domain names became harder to come by, and ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) added new domain extensions to expand domain availability. For example, there is .biz (for business), .info (for informative Internet resources), and country extensions like .co, .uk, .fr, .jp, .ly and .us.  .ly domains have become popular lately as companies seek a cute and distinctive way to turn words into adverbs, but .ly is actually the country-code domain name for Libya!

And yet none of these TLDs have challenged the popularity of .com domains. Almost 30 years later, .com is still the gold standard for businesses. Even businesses outside of the US tend to prefer .com to their country-specific domains.

In 2011, ICANN approved a significant expansion of top-level domain names, potentially allowing for any TLD address applicants could dream up, including generic words and proprietary brand names. However, applicants for new TLDs need deep pockets — $185,000 to get started and $75,000 for each year after — and all applications must be approved by ICANN.

ICANN accepted applications for new TLDs from January-April 2012, and the evaluation process has taken much longer than expected. One of the main reasons for the delay is that ICANN is trying to avoid name collisions (a complicated concept explained here).  In fact, as of today, only four new TLDs have been signed into existence:

  • .شبكة (Arabic for “Web”)
  • .游戏 (Chinese for “Game”)
  • .онлайн (Russian for “Online”)
  • .сайт (Russian for “Web site”)

ICANN’s name collision plan requires the owners of the new TLD to wait at least 120 days after a registry contract is signed before any domains may be activated under the TLD.  .شبكة was the first agreement signed on July 13, 2013, so the earliest it will go live is November 13, 2013.

The long-term effect of these new TLDs remains to be seen, but we feel confident that .com will continue to reign supreme – despite the difficulty of getting exact .com domains for business or service names.

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