ICANN starts rolling out new generic top-level domains

The first four generic top-level domains introduced are in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts

ICANN has introduced the first new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to the Internet's root zone, the central database for the Internet's Domain Name System, paving the way for possibly 1400 new domain names from the current 22.

It will take 30 days and some more procedures for people to start accessing the new domains, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said Wednesday.

The "delegation" or introduction into the Internet's root zone of four new gTLDs starts a so-called "Sunrise" period to give trademark holders an opportunity to register second-level domains corresponding to their marks, wrote Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's Generic Domains Division in a blog post.

Following the mandatory 30-day Sunrise period, operators are free to make their domains available to the public; a period called "General Availability," Atallah added.

ICANN said in July it had passed a registry agreement for new gTLDs to address the rights of trademark holders and the security and stability of the Domain Name System. The agreement, approved by the new gTLD program committee of the ICANN board of directors, provides for a trademark clearinghouse where trademark holders can assert infringements by new websites in the new gTLDs and also creates a process for quick take down of infringing domain names, ICANN said.

Atallah expects more gTLDs to be delegated over the coming months and through next year. The plan is to introduce the new gTLDs into the Internet "securely and steadily over the next few years," ICANN said in a statement.

The ICANN board approved in June 2011 an increase in the number of gTLDs from the current 22 that include for example .com, .net and .org. The gTLD plan is expected to bring significant benefits to Internet users, including the ability to create new TLDs in non-Latin, non-English scripts. But some trademark owners have said it will be difficult to protect their intellectual property on hundreds or thousands of new TLDs.

The four newly delegated gTLDs are in Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic scripts and are the first of many gTLDs in various non-Latin scripts such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek and Hindi that will be introduced under the program. "The delegation of non-Latin script gTLDs demonstrates ICANN's efforts to create a globally-inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region," ICANN said.

Internationalized Domain Names are available as second-level domains and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), but this will be the first time non-Latin characters can be used in a generic TLD, according to the organization.

The first four gTLD strings are the Arabic word for web or network, the Cyrillic words for online and website, and Chinese for game. "It's happening -- the biggest change to the Internet since its inception," said Atallah in a statement. ICANN cleared the four new gTLDs earlier this week.

Google, Amazon.com and Microsoft are among a large number of companies who applied for new gTLDs.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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