January 20, 2012, 11:42 AM

ICANN says it has 25 “registrants” for new top-level domain names

But the number of applications for the new web addresses could run higher.

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, says it has approved 25 “successful registrants” since it began accepting applications for new generic top-level domain names a week ago. The number of actual applications for domains does not necessarily equal the number of registrants, however, because each registrant can apply for up to 50 new top-level domains, ICANN says.

A top-level domain is the term that follows the final period in a web address, such as .com, .org and .gov; 22 such domains exist, along with about 250 country-specific domains. The  ICANN plan would expand available domains by enabling retailers and other entities to create or buy domains that describe their work. For instance, a camera company could use the .camera domain, or a subdomain that includes .camera. A company could use its own name as a domain, as in clothing.Macys.

“One week into the process, the application system for the new domain names is functioning just as it should,” says Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s president and CEO. “This is a reflection of the careful planning, hard work and long hours our staff spent preparing for last week’s launch.”

The number of registrants so far is about what one would expect, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, which helps businesses navigate trademark and copyright issues. She had no insight about what entities had applied for the domain names, but said some of them are all but certain to be claimed first. "Domains like (dot).GE (General Electronics) or (dot).LG (LG Corp) would be sought after immediately," she says. "The same goes for companies that utilize concept names like .nationwide or .progressive, which could be easily claimed by other entities."

ICANN gave no indication of how many of the registrants were retailers. A “successful registrant” is one that has cleared the legal review process for a domain application, and also submitted a $5,000 deposit, an ICANN spokesman says. “It’s an expression of interest,” he says, and does not mean an actual application has been filed; in fact, he says, it is doubtful that all of the initial registrants have submitted applications for new domain names. He adds there is no benefit to submitting an application early, as there is no advantage for those first in line.

ICANN has said that it will accept applications until April 12, though an expression of interest must be lodged with ICANN by March 29. “If applicants are not registered in this system by that date, they will be unable to apply,” ICANN says.

Jeff Ernst, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst, expects more applicants to wait until the deadline is closer. "Since there are no benefits I see in applying early, I expect that many applicants will wait until the end of the application window to apply, taking the time they need to complete the application while monitoring any changes to the program," he says.

ICANN plans to publish in early May a list of applications and applicants, and the domain names for which they have applied. The fee to apply for a top-level domain name is $185,000. Retailers registering subdomains would likely pay a much lower cost, experts say, though costs could add up for companies that aim to control many web addresses.

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