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ICANN domain lottery may open the Web to .kittens and .transformers in 2013

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – or jolly old ICANN for short – is giving the gift of .christmas this holiday season. On Monday, at an all-day event at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, ICANN held its prioritization draw for expanded generic top level domains. With companies vying for 1,930 new website suffixes, the old .com Web promises to look a lot different come next year.

More than 300 representatives from international universities, small businesses, major corporations, and more were in attendance to jockey for gTLDs as varied as .hangout and .sport, determining the kind of marketing edge their brand will have on search engines in years to come. The event was the culmination of what has been a whirlwind expansion for ICANN’s recognized domains. Registration for new gTLDs closed last June, with applicants paying $185,000 for each domain name, netting ICANN $350 million. Google applied for more than 100 gTLDs alone for domains such as .and, .blog, .book, and even .lol and .transformers, and .app was the single most contested domain at the time, receiving 13 applications.

The draw functioned like a lottery to determine the order in which ICANN will evaluate applications, with higher numbers meaning a longer processing period. The very first new gTLDs are expected to clear the approval process by second quarter next year.

Several organizations also applied for domain names in multiple languages, including Chinese and Latin, and no English-language domain was among the first 100 gTLDs chosen at the event. The Catholic Church’s application for .catholic in Chinese was the first drawn.

Most of the common TLDs that net natives are accustomed to – namely .com, .gov, .edu, .mil, and .org – were implemented in the mid-1980s to function as general-purpose domains. ICANN eventually took control of these domains in 1999, and implemented seven more between 2000 and 2011, including the now-infamous .xxx domain. But who knows? By next Christmas, love.kittens may well wind up among your favorite websites.

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