How the Future of the Internet Will Be Determined

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ICANN, the organization that runs the world's domain names, today released a first round list of applications for new domain name extensions, some of which will become a regular part of our Internet lexicon and some of which will fade away into oblivion. "It's a historic day for the Internet," said ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom. "The internet is about to change forever." Note the phrase "about to change." We haven't gotten to the changing part yet. We're just in the beginning stages of this momentous process. But given that it's Internet changing, we'd like to know a little bit more about how we get from today to changed-Internet.

Phase 1: Reveal Day

When: Today!

What happens: ICANN released this list of 1,930 applications for additions to the standard suffixes like .com, .net, .org, of which there are currently only 22. The application process cost each organization -- company or country -- $185,000 per domain, meaning ICANN made somewhere around $350 million dollars on the process. It claims that money will fund the rest of the process, according to its FAQ page.

ICANN is a not-for-profit organization and this is a not-for-profit initiative. The program is designed to be self-funding. It is possible ICANN will over-collect or even under-collect for this first round of applications. If the fee collection exceeds ICANN's expenses, the community will be consulted as to how that excess should be used.

Half of the applications came from U.S. companies, possibly because of that hefty price tag. Companies in Africa applied for 17, including South African pay TV company MultiChoice which has applied for .AfricaMagic. Internet big-wig Google came in with the most applications, 101 in total including their big products, like .youtube and .plus and less obvious ones like .pet and three in non-Roman characters, per the Google Blog. Amazon came in second with over 70 applications.

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Have we reached the future yet? No. These are just the applications. Over a third of those submitted conflicted with another request, notes ArsTechnica's Sean Gallagher. "There were 13 applications for the .app TLD alone," writes Gallagher. Plus, some domains like .sucks, might just not fly. The list needs to be narrowed down. Hence the next phase.

Phase 2: Initial Evaluations

When: July

What happens: Panels will get together to review the applications in batches of 500. These Internet future experts will review comments submitted here and objections submitted here. They will also discuss if the suggested domain fits the following criteria, from the ICANN site.

String reviews focus on whether an applied-for TLD string is too similar to another TLD, whether it meets technical requirements, and whether it is a geographic name. Applicant reviews focus on the applying organization to determine if they have demonstrated the appropriate technical, operational, and financial capabilities to run a registry. The applicant's proposed registry services also will be reviewed to determine whether they might cause DNS instability.

Have we reached the future yet? No. The more complicated applications, like that one for .app, we presume, will go under a more rigorous process, explains ICANN.

An application passing the initial valuation and faces no objections will be eligible to proceed to pre-delegation. Eventually the string will be live and reachable on the Internet as a TLD. However, some applications will be subject to special processes depending on the circumstances.

Phase 3: "Additional Program Phases" a.k.a Solving the Spats

When: December/January

What happens? This is when the hardest applications get decided. "If more than one party has applied to operate the same TLD (a circumstance referred to as string contention), attempts to resolve the contention begin," explains the site. In that case, ICANN will evaluate financial risks and comments from stakeholders. If the two fighting over the domain are still in contention, the community based organization will get it. (How humanitarian!) And, if that doesn't apply, there will be an auction.

Have we reached the future yet? Almost! Well, the sites need to implement and pay for these domains. From ICANN's site: "The applicant is required to execute a registry agreement with ICANN and pass technical pre-delegation tests before the new gTLD can be delegated to the root zone," it explains. There's also a $25,000 yearly fee for domain upkeep.

Phase 4: Results

When: December/January through Spring 2014

What happens? Winners will be informed that their domain qualified. ICANN has said it has no way of knowing how many new ones it will allow. Though, calculating for overlap and ones susceptible for public outrage like .sucks, the number will be less than 1,930. The least scandalous domains will find out at the end of 2012, however ICANN says that secondary process could take up to 20 months.

Have we reached the future yet? We have! Welcome to a world where you can go to a website by typing or into your address bar. Pretty exciting, right?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.