Last June the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow new generic Top Level Domain (TLD) names to be created, and the deadline for submissions is midnight tonight.
The .com domain name suffix has been around for the last 27 years but we will soon see a dramatic increase in the number and variety of these suffixes after the controversial decision taken by ICANN, the organisation charged with regulating the Web's names.
This move will allow for the creation of a huge range of TLDs beyond the current selection of 22, which include .com, .org and .net. There are also 250 or so country code TLDs (such as .co.uk for the UK, .fr for France and .ru for Russia.)
Last June's ruling means that companies, government bodies, cities or even individuals, have been able to apply for pretty much any suffix they desire, in any language they want, with applications being accepted since 12 January last.
On 29 March access to the TLD application system closed, but all those already registered on the system still have access to it until midnight (GMT) tonight, 12 April. As of 29 March, there were 839 registered users on the system and each one can apply for up to 50 domain names. Details of the successful applicants will be announced next week on 30 April.
As well as having to pay a $5,000 (£3,130) registration fee, anyone applying for a new generic TLD will have to submit a payment of $180,000. As well as paying the fees involved, applicants will need to show a legitimate claim to the name, preventing people buying domain names, just to sell them on to companies soon after.
The plan is to introduce a type of '.brand' domain name, letting companies like Apple purchase the .apple domain name or cities purchase the likes of .london or .newyork. The system also opens up the possibility of generic domain names like .beer, .football, .news or just about anything you could think of.
However the decision to open up the naming system has not been welcomed by everyone. A petition signed by, among others, Adobe, American Express, Coca Cola, Dell, Ford and Hewlett-Packard, said: "ICANN's action was taken despite widespread and significant objections raised throughout the process by many in the global community of internet users." The group of 166 companies and industry groups under the umbrella of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) wanted ICANN to give the companies the opportunity to have those brands registered, without cost, on a temporary "Do Not Sell" list to be maintained by ICANN during the first application round.
However at the time of the vote, Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer for ICANN, said: "ICANN has opened the internet's addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination. No one can predict where this historic decision will take us."
The US government was also angered by the move and last month it rejected ICANN's application for a renewal of its contract to run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which underpins the internet's numbering system. It did however renew the contract on a temporary basis until 9 September next.