A domain name is a unique sequence of characters used to identify the address for a website on the internet or the sender of an electronic mail sent via the internet. Every website has a domain name associated with it. The Domain Name System (“DNS”) is the core infrastructure of the internet. It supports the system of hypertext links and allows software such as browsers, search engines and email clients, as well as web site developers, to build their programmes.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the number of TLDs was small and they all shared the same basic format – two- character ccTLDs and a handful of three character gTLDs. In the past decade, new gTLDs that are longer than three characters (such as .info) have been introduced, as have domains written in various non-Latin scripts, known as internationalised domain names (“IDNs”).
ICANN, set up in 1998 and which operates as a not-for-profit organisation today, has a range of roles, including coordinating the domain industry and promoting competition. It also determines which Registry Operators obtain the rights to each TLD. ICANN is recognised by the domain name industry as the global central standards setting body and coordinates the use of domain names.
ICANN is introducing new gTLDs to promote competition and expand customer choice. This programme will also enable brands, corporations and governments to run their own domains. Between January and June 2012, ICANN accepted applications for a new round of gTLD names in what is the largest expansion in the history of the internet’s Domain Name System. CentralNic has contracted to act as RSP for applicants of 60 new gTLDs.
The key participants in the domain name industry are registry operators, registry service providers and registrars.