Source: Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Dot-anything Web domain costs big .$$$

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- Dot-anything.  The possibilities for your new web address are now practically endless.  And they don't even need to be in English anymore. That's because ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, voted Monday to relax the rules limiting domain names to the 22 that currently exist.

That means move over .com, .org and .gov.

You'll be joined by .canon, .unicef and .paris.  These and several other known brands, organizations and cities have already said they're going to apply.

While big names will be applying for the new web addresses between January and April 2012, I'll wager you won't be among them - unless  you have $185,000 to spend on the new domain name application fees (as much as I would like to, I can admit I won't be applying for .inocencio).

Ben Crawford, CEO of London-based dotBrand Solutions, told me the high application fee is based on the non-profit organization's own cost to evaluate applications.

Crawford said its not just that $185,000 to consider - which won't be returned if you are turned down, by the way - but also the cost of preparing the application itself. That involves a detailed business plan, policy documents and likely a few lawyers to make sure the legalese is just right.

Preparation, application and website maintenance for your desired domain could cost more than $400,000, Crawford said.

That .com blog site you use for free is looking homier by the second isn't it? Crawford expects ICANN will get hundreds, perhaps thousands, of applications. That's not a huge number compared to the great matrix of internet sites that already exist in the world.

For companies with the means, however, it could be a virtual gold rush.  That could attract squatters, too.

Remember the dot-com boom of the 1990's? Lots of people registered popular brand names and companies they had nothing to do with - just so they could sell at profit to a company down the line. But Crawford says there are checks and balances to try to keep the squatters at bay this time.

In particular, if one or more groups want the same domain name, it could go to auction.  So let's say a hypothetical electronics group and a fruit group both want the domain name .apple. If they can't work out an agreement, it would then go to the highest bidder. And any extra money, Crawford says, might go to training and education programs.

The internet address world as we know it has about one year left.  ICANN says new domain names will take effect in July 2012.  If you've got the money then get your application ready.  If you don't, then just keep calling that free .com blog site you use home. It's not going anywhere.

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