ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ) has just approved key proposals to relax the rules on domain names which opens the way for more customization and flexibility. Domain names will now be allowed to use any combination of letters and numbers, including non-Latin characters.

Top level domain (TLD) names (the 2 or 3 letters after the dot) will not have to conform to the existing name conventions. So instead of .com we may be seeing .blog, .xxx or .sex to identify a site. Second level domain names (the bit before the dot) could use a TLD as a keyword giving more options for creativity in naming – .travel, .hotel, .photo. craft, .shop, .safeway. Towns and cities would not have to just rely on a country TLD name – .melbourne .waggawagga. The possibilities are endless, although a name will have to be either memorable, descriptive, distinctive or follow conventions taken up by similar niches to be of much use.

This opens the floodgates to domain name registration. Popular .com keynames words suddenly become free again to be recreated with a different TLD extension. Interesting thought – I wonder if ing or ed will become popular – twitter.ing, digg.ing, learn.ed stumble.ed, flickr.ed. We will not see these particular examples of course because of copyright on the second level domain name (the bit before the dot). So we will not witness google.oogle, msn.acronym, abc.def, windows.liveordead, microsoft.hard nor ICANN.ucannot ask.andlearn. I could go on forever making up names like that but will restrain myself and leave you to come up with some for yourself 🙂

There are advantages for users as well as domain name owners. Users will be able to distinguish what a site is about more easily if it has a distinctive TLD. I hope search engines and browsers will come up with a way for us to easily filter out certain TLD names. For example, it would be good to filter out shopping sites if we were just looking for information rather than to buy or vice-versa. I can see it now – a Firefox extension called shopaholic. Search engines relying on advertising revenue may not be so keen on this idea, however. Another advantage of this could be easier filtering out of adult sites to safeguard children although I imagine some of these sites would want to draw unsuspecting visitors in by having a special extension as well as one that does not distinguish it.

Here is an quick explanation by the BBC on the changes:

You can read more about the ICANN recommendation on their site


For Australian readers: The rules on transfer of an Australian domain name were relaxed as of 1st June this year. Now domain names are not strictly attached to businesses. Previously a name could not be transferred unless the business changed hands too. There will be a 6 month cooling off period before a sale can be finalized. It sounds as if you do have to have a good reason to sell however as the rules state that “It will not be allowable to register a domain name for the sole purpose of resale or transfer to a third party”. I would imagine an allowable change would include a situation where a domain name defines a product or service that a business no longer sells. More information is available on the The Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA) site.