In the last decade a small handful of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) appeared on the global stage; some with much ado and fanfare and some barely noticed and nearly fading from existence. In 2001 .INFO was the first new TLD since .COM .NET and .ORG. This was followed by such beauties as .BIZ, .NAME, .PRO, .MOBI, .TEL, .EU, .ASIA, .ME, and most recently the much anticipated .XXX. Each of these releases has been like its own slow Broadway show with no shortage of drama, intrigue or comedy.
In the year 2013 the show show will become more like a carnival circus as hundreds if not thousands of new TLDs will be brought online. What took place for a small number of new TLDs in the last decade will be multiplied a hundredfold and compressed into a few months of activity. Some of the possible new candidates will be names like .London, .ECO, .CANON or .SHOP. Some names like .WEB will undoubtedly be sought by more than one applicant.
Compared to the deployment of previous TLDs, the next phase of expansion stands to be chaotic. In the past, new TLDs were made generally available to the public. But each of the businesses that apply going forward may have its own agenda and may restrict availability of the name space. So amid the flurry of new domains, the rules of the game will be completely different.
It is hard to guess who will benefit the most from this expansion. Surely, ICANN stands to gain several million in revenue. The new TLD holders will hopefully benefit. There is also much interest to the back end service providers that run the registry systems on behalf of the holder of the TLD. But further down the food chain – for registrars, resellers and registrants – the benefits are less certain.
2012 will be an interesting year as we see who is applying for these TLDs, and what their business objectives will be. At the end of the year it should be clear who will benefit and how.