But now ICANN is itself a monopoly. It has the freedom to mint new gTLDs and incorporate them into the “root zone file,” the master list that matches human-readable URLs (such as www.technologyreview.com) with the numeric Internet Protocol addresses that are used to route packets between computers. And it’s employing this freedom to orchestrate the biggest land rush in the history of the Internet.
During a four-and-a-half-month application period that closed on May 30, ICANN collected more than 1,900 proposals for new gTLDs. As expected, hundreds of companies applied for gTLDs corresponding to their brand names—.aetna, .barclays, .mcdonalds, and the like. But applicants also asked for the rights to hundreds of generic terms, such as .health, .mail, .music, and .pizza. The first such domains could be activated by next spring.