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Big Internet news this week: ICANN, the organization that manages the allocation of domain names and IP addresses, announced it would allow virtually any word to become a top-level domain (TLD).


Among the 22 TLDs available today, the most common is .com. Soon we could see a flood of new TLDs — generic or branded — such as .apple, .salad, .panama, or .nike.


“ICANN has opened the Internet’s naming system to unleash the global human imagination. Today’s decision respects the rights of groups to create new Top Level Domains in any language or script,” said Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of ICANN, in a statement on the organization’s website. “We hope this allows the domain name system to better serve all of mankind.”


In the near term, most commentators believe the change will better serve large corporations, who will rush to apply for a branded TLD and won’t balk at the $185,000 application fee.


In addition to that rather large barrier to entry, the new naming change comes with some other fine print: ICANN warns would-be domain squatters and impostors that the application process will take several months and depending on the requested name, may be reviewed governmental agencies the U.S. and abroad. Applicants for new TLDs will have to show a reasonable claim to the name they are buying.


Maybe you’re wondering: who’s ICANN and what provides them the power to institute this change?


ICANN — officially known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — is a private non-profit that is under contract by the U.S. Department of Commerce to manage the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.


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