Typing in a website URL is about to get a lot more complicated with new proposals from ICANN, the organisation responsible for URL names like .com and .co.uk.
In planning for a while, ICANN has today revealed some of the applications from the different companies around the world that, if approved, we could be using in our browsers in the coming months.
The big reveal has exposed that we should be getting ready for URLs to end in things like .xbox, .apple, .app, and plenty others if they are all approved. There were some 1930 gTLD applications submitted in total, from companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple.
The idea is that, very much as .com and .co.uk have been used in the past, companies that are big enough to run and manage their own Top Level Domain (TLD) will be able to do so without having to use the .com moniker.
That means it is going to be easier for companies to come up with new URLs without having to be creative with the bit before the dot.
Microsoft, for example, which has applied for the .xbox domain name, will be able to have a separate domain for every game without worrying that someone has already got the dot com. You could also expect music.xbox and games.xbox rather than what you have now which is xbox.com/music or xbox.com/games.
Applicants also include Google, which has applied for 101 domain extensions including .google, .youtube and .lol; Amazon which has made 76 applications including .book, .cloud, .mobile, .kindle; and Apple which has applied for .apple.
It makes sense to a point, but means that, rather than remember a dot com or a dot-co-dot-uk, you’ll have a huge range of names to remember.
But then you have to ask whether it will make a difference to your web surfing habits at all?
Yearly stats from Google already show that most simply use the search engine to find website addresses they already know. Facebook is one of the most searched for terms year after year, and so is Facebook.com. Yes, people really do search for Facebook.com rather than just typing it.
If you look at Apple’s approach to URLs in its Safari browser, in the upcoming version in Mountain Lion, it doesn’t even want you to pay attention to the complete URL, greying out all but the site name.
Of course ICANN says that it will give consumers a greater acknowledgement of the brand website which they are using. But with companies being able to control it, rather than a bigger organisation that looks after the whole industry, it will likely be harder to understand.
A good example is .app. According to ICANN, 13 companies have paid $185,000 to apply to manage the .app domain name. With apps so popular you can see why someone like Amazon, Google, or Apple would want to run it. But what is to say that it will become the de facto for app listings? What happens if someone else registers .apps or .applications? Or Amazon wins it and then doesn’t let anyone else use it?
It might work for banking or the porn industry, but who manages .hotel or .shop or .web?
There are many ways the new system makes sense, but unfortunately many ways that we think it will become even more confusing. You only have to look at websites that end with .tv to see that most of them aren’t TV stations or anything to do with TV, but are used only because the dot com was already taken.
Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen over and over again, thousands of times over, or the future internet will become a very confusing place.