ICANN: New top level domain extensions

ICANNICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is the current regulatory authority that governs domain names and numerical addresses on the Internet. The organization has a mandate from the United States department of defense to govern these areas of the Internet.

A major change is about to happen regarding how webapps are addressed: until now, most of the domain names that hosted popular webapps had endings in .com, .net, .org or other less-popular endings, out of a total of 22 possible values. On June 20, 2011, ICANN voted to end those restrictions. As a result, a process was started under which individual corporations can apply to receive and maintain custom domain name endings, such as .google or .bing.

The limiting factor in generating new domain name endings is the cost involved. The one-time application fee is $185,000, and annual charges are, at a minimum, $75,000 per each ending. Nevertheless, for big corporations, these fees represent insignificant monetary levels. The new gTLD application window opened on 12 January 2012 and closed on 30 May 2012. During the application window, 1,930 domain name endings were submitted (and paid) in the ICANN system, with several entries belonging to well-known software and Internet companies.

The process met strong opposition from Internet activists and web technologists around the world. In a famous blog post, Ben Werdmuller argues that specific domain name endings such as .book or .blogs belong to communities around the world, which don’t have the material or legal resources to unite and protect their interests in front of big corporations with large amounts of cash. Others say that it will create more confusion and that the decline of DNS further strengthens the position of a few gatekeepers – Google on the web, Apple on the phone. “If it’s not searchable, it doesn’t exist”.

The application process was affected by a security bug, due to which some applicants were able to see information belonging to others. On 21th of June 2012, ICANN announced that Michael Salazar, New gTLD Program Director, resigned from his position.


DomainTools – Information about Domains

DomainTools enables an advanced whois lookup about a specific domain or about the domains owned by a specific person. If you ever wanted to find out who is behind a specific website, who is running it and what other domain names does he have, this is the right tool for the job.

A domain name is a string, usually ending in “.com”, “.net” or “.org”, that appears at the top of the window when people navigate on it via the Internet. Although new Internet users tend to have Google on their homepage, and navigate directly on sites by typing desired keywords in the search box (without ever knowing the actual domain name of a site), a memorable and easy to remember domain name is still an asset nowadays as users tend to remember the brand as they become more advanced in Internet usage and more loyal to their favorite sites.

As opposed to other whois tools, DomainTools has several improvements. First, they provide a shortcut for quickly accessing the whois information: just type “whois.sc/example.com” (without the quotes and with the actual domain instead of example.com) and you’ll be redirected to the DomainTools whois page for that domain. Secondly, in addition to standard whois information, you’ll find out how many other domains does that person have registered, and for a fee, what those other domains are. In the registration tab you’ll also be able to see the registration status for the other extensions (is example.net or example.org available?).

DomainTools has, every month, 2 million unique visitors. According to its Wikipedia page, the site is in the top 200 Internet sites (in Alexa ratings). The company is based in Seattle, United States. They make money via multiple sources: they sell domain reports for a fee (as mentioned above) and they offer domain monitoring services (which are free only up to specific limits). Recently they’ve begun letting you know when a domain is taken but available for sale via a 3rd party provider; those links include the ability to track the referrer and I suspect DomainTools gets a commission in case the sale actually happens.

SnapNames – The Domain Names You Want

SnapNames - Get the domain name you wantSnapNames.com is an online auction and marketplace site which allows users to purchase thousands of available domain names or to list their own domain names for sale. The domain names available on the site belong either to private owners or they can be expired domains that were no longer renewed by their original holders.

The site offers several methods for trading domain names. Buy It Now (also called BIN) is a method where the seller establishes a fixed sale price, and the first buyer willing to pay it gets the domain (once the payment is completed, the transfer happens automatically in the background, risk-free). Alternatively, domains can be sold via time-limited legally-binding auctions or by direct negotiations (“make an offer”).

Prices can get as low as $10 USD for a domain name sold via the auction system, while the premium names can reach millions of dollars. The site is well known in the domain gurus community and enjoys around 20’000 unique monthly visitors, which adds liquidity to the market and facilitates a speedy conversion between domains and cold hard cash. The site’s commission varies, depending on the type of sale, between 15% and 25% of the final sale price.

In november 2009 it was revealed that a SnapNames employee placed bids in the site’s domain auctions over a time-span of 4 years. As this violated SnapNames’ policy, the employee got fired. The company refunded all customers affected by paying the difference in the price hike attributed to the employee’s participation in the auctions (plus interest). The site seems to have recovered after the incident, in no small part due to their upfront disclosure and fast action once the issue was discovered.

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