The pillar of the basic Web address â€" the trusty .com domain â€" is about to face vast new competition that will dramatically transform the Web as we know it. New websites, with more subject-specific, sometimes controversial suffixes, will soon populate the online galaxy, such as .eco, .love, .god, .sport, .gay or .kurd.
This massive expansion to the Internetâ€™s domain name system will either make the Web more intuitive or create more cluttered, maddening experiences. But with an infinite number of naming possibilities, an industry of Web wildcatters is racing to grab these potentially lucrative territories with addresses that are bound to provoke.
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Who gets to run .abortion Web sites â€" people who support abortion rights or those who donâ€™t? Which individual or mosque can run the .islam or .muhammad sites? Can the Ku Klux Klan own .nazi on free speech grounds, or will a Jewish organization run the domain and permit only educational Web sites - say, www.remember.nazi or www.antidefamation.nazi? And whoâ€™s going to get .amazon - the Internet retailer or Brazil?
The decisions will come down to a little-known nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, Calif., whose international board of directors approved the expansion in 2008 but has been stuck debating how best to run the program before launching it. Now, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is on the cusp of completing those talks in March or April and will soon solicit applications from companies and governments that want to propose and operate the new addresses.
Next week, hundreds of investors, consultants and entrepreneurs are expected to converge in San Francisco for the first â€œ.nxtâ€