Q: What's a top-level domain? A: Practically anything.

Forget the Hummer or HDTV. Having your own personal top-level Internet domain could be the next status symbol.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers recently gave the OK to a potentially huge expansion of top-level domains. Under the new rules, pretty much anything goes. Companies, organizations and individuals can give up having dot-com, dot-org or dot-net addresses and instead go with, say, .Coke, .Google, .NBA or, for that matter, .Shaq or .JoeTheGuyWhoPlaysBagpipesOnTheCorner.

All they’d need is money — in the low six figures, according to ICANN — and, in the case of individuals, to demonstrate a business plan and the technical ability to manage the domain.

Meanwhile, ICANN also approved a perhaps more significant change: allowing domains names in Asian, Arabic and other scripts. ICANN officials said allowing other scripts would open the Internet to millions of people around the world for whom the Roman alphabet doesn’t make sense.

The reason for opening the top-level domains is, apparently, mostly so someone can buy them. Some critics have questioned whether the move might start the kind of brand-name battles that existed in the early days of the Internet, but ICANN says it has procedures to protect trademarked names.

Still, one has to suspect there will be some mischief.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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