Welcome to the amazing new world of gTLDs, or generic top-level domain names. Never heard of them? You will!
In order to make contact with some entity on the Internet, you have to enter an address of some kind into your computer, or at least get your browser to do it for you. That address must be distinct from any other. Operating under a contract from the U.S. government, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is the group responsible for coordinating and assigning these highly individualized Internet domains, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet's underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS).
The DNS is a network linking numerical addresses with more memorable names, like commonplaces.com. Until now, top-level domain names effectively divided the Internet into very general digital neighborhoods, with .com and .net for businesses and general-purpose users, .org for nonprofits, and .gov for government agencies. There are also unique domains for various countries, such as .uk in Britain. Without this coordination, we wouldn't have a fully functional World Wide Web. We'd have a mess.
Now, ICANN has instituted a game-changing plan. They have decided to introduce hundreds of distinct new addresses that will clearly delineate their place on the Internet, in the hopes of making it easier for us to find what we're looking for. These new addresses, or gTLDs, have just been introduced. More than 1400 were approved, and more are pending. In theory, they give businesses and organizations the opportunity to create more specific and browser relevant titles. Instead of .com and .org, you can now find .church, and .book.
It can be logically argued that society has nearly exhausted all useful .com names. Domain names in the world of Internet real estate are often already owned, used, or being commandeered by squatters. For that reason alone, generic names make a certain amount of sense.
Not all these domain names are, or will be, technically generic, however. Expect vanity domains in the near future. These could take the form of recognized brands like sports teams, automobiles, and computers. Soon, you'll see domains like trucks.dodge, and tickets.atlantabraves. New York City and London have already secured dozens of possible names ending in .nyc and .london.
What do you think of this change to naming conventions on the Net? Will it add to confusion, spread the wealth, or change little in the grand scheme of things? We'd love your opinions.