July 16, 2013, 11:36 AM

ICANN approves the first batch of new web domain names

The domains include Russian and Chinese script to appeal to a global audience.

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With the first of new web domain names approved yesterday by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, web users will able to type and access an Internet  address in Arabic, Russian and Chinese language scripts.

ICANN signed the first four registry agreements with applicants for new generic top-level domain names, also called gTLDs, which are the terms after the final period in a web address. Up to now, they were limited to 21 types, including .com, .net, .org and .edu. But under a program started last year, organizations can apply for new gTLDs to tie web addresses more closely to a line of business, a type of activity or a geographic area, such as .book, .skateboarding or .midwest.

The four gTLD registry agreements made this week are with three Internet registration services:

● International Domain Registry Pty. Ltd., for a domain name in Arabic script ( شبكة ) that means “web” or “network”;

● Core Association, a not-for-profit organization of domain registries and registrars, for two Russian domain names in Cyrillic script: “онлайн” for “online”; and “сайт” for “web site”; and

● Spring Fields LLC, which is part of Donuts Inc., for a Chinese Mandarin term (游戏) meaning “game.”

Once these and other internationalized domain name strings become operational, “it will mark the first time that people will be able to access and type in a web site address for generic top-level domains in their native language,” ICANN said yesterday. “This will expand the Internet not just in the number of generic top-level domains available, but also in the overall accessibility for all people across the globe.”

International Domain Name Registry said in its application that Arabic gTLDs will significantly enhance web navigation for the “350 million Arabic-literate individuals in the world.”

Core Association asserted in its application that, by offering Russian-language top-level domain names in Cyrillic script, it will serve “all Internet users of the Cyrillic alphabet in Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia and Ukraine, while also being easily recognizable by the population of other neighboring Balkin and Baltic countries.”

In the application Donuts filed, the company said it is also applying for 307 other gTLDs, including .jewelry, .auction, .baseball, .football, .beauty, .luxury, .boats, .cafe, .pizza, .furniture, .wedding and .forsale.

Donuts, which sets up a separate limited liability company, such as Spring Fields LLC, to apply for each gTLD, will wholesale its domain names to domain name registrars, such as GoDaddy.com. Those registrars will make them available for web site operators to purchase, a Donuts spokesman says. Thus, an Italian restaurant might license Luigis.pizza. He declined to estimate expected prices for wholesale or final transactions with web site operators.           

Donuts says it has raised more than $100 million from several investors to buy top-level domain names. On its web site, Donuts.co, it lists eight financial backers: Austin Ventures, Adams Street Partners, Emergence Capital Partners, TL Ventures, Generation Partners, Stahurricane, Comerica Bank and Columbia Partners Investment Management.

Nao Matsukata, CEO of FairWinds Partners, a firm that helps Internet companies develop domain name strategies, says it may take another month or more before the new top-level domain names in yesterday’s agreements will become publically available, as ICANN runs tests to ensure the new gTLDs will work properly when accessed by people on the Internet. “It’s all about providing a good, usable experience for Internet users,” he says.

FairWinds notes that 690 applicants have applied for a total of 1,490 unique new gTLDs. ICANN is no longer accepting additional applications.

For each gTLD application, ICANN charged a one-time evaluation fee of $185,000; ICANN allows for partial refunds if an application is either withdrawn or disapproved. If approved, a gTLD comes with additional fees including a fixed fee of $6,250 per calendar quarter.

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