One of my continuing business interests is the Internet and domain names.
In March, 1996, as the World Wide Web began to become commercialized, I registered Redcap.com for my family-owned corporation, Redwood Capital. With the help of a good friend, Andy Thornley, the Redcap.com website was launched soon thereafter.
At that time in 1996, there were fewer than ½ million domain names registered world-wide. Many companies much larger than Redwood Capital were without websites. Today there are more 252 million domains registered, more than 500X those in 1996, and almost every US company has a unique domain and website, as do many individuals, families, non-profits, government agencies, colleges & universities, etc.
Every domain name ends with a top-level domain label. Top-level domains (TLDs), unsurprisingly, are the highest level of domain names on the Internet and are classified by type.
Types of TLDs are:
- Generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .com, .net, .org, and others. Today there are 19 gTLDs (n=19), but there will soon be many, many more.
- Country Code TLDs (ccTLDs), of which there are now approximately n=250.
- Internationalized ccTLDs (commonly called “IDNs” – for non-Latin alphabets such as those used in China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, etc.). IDN n=41.
- US only TLDs (.mil, .edu, .gov).
Totaling the TLDs, we see there are approximately 313 in use today.
The counts of domains registered within each TLD are uneven and may be consistent with the Pareto Principle. Of the approximately 250 million domain names registered, approximately 107 million are in the .com TLD. Approximately 15 million are in .net while 7 million are .orgs. There are approximately 120 million domains in ccTLDs, with 60% of those in just 9 of the extensions. Thus a large majority of registered domains are in just a few TLDs.
Created in September, 1998, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit private organization headquartered in Los Angeles, oversees a number of Internet-related tasks and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Through IANA ICANN is responsible for the Internet’s stable and secure operation including coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers including domain names.
Beginning in September, 2008, ICANN began a formal process to discuss a significant expansion of the number of TLDs. ICANN eventually gave the green light to such an expansion and developed detailed protocols for applications by interested parties, application assessment and approval, and TLD implementation. The application phase is complete while a portion of the assessment and approval phases continue for some applicants. Many applications have been approved and the first batch of new TLDs is becoming available at this moment. With over 1900 applications, it is expected that over the next couple of years, over 1500 new TLDs will be in service. Because of the expanding numbers of TLDs, many more domain names will be registered over the next few years. The implications of this are many, some are unknown, and it is almost certain there will be unintended consequences.
Examples of new TLDs for which domain names will be available to the general public soon include: .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, and .ventures
Last week I attended a conference with a focus on the changing Internet namespace, NamesCon, and in my next post I’ll write about it.