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August 6, 2013

Move aside .com: Other domains are joining the Internet

Adrienne McAdory, a Washington military contractor, remembers exactly when she learned the Internet was about to get a lot bigger. She was at work, at the Pentagon in 2011, and she saw an article about a nonprofit group called ICANN, which oversees the Internet. She saw that ICANN was going to expand the number of generic top-level domain names from fewer than 20 to what ultimately became nearly 2,000 and that visiting the Web was never going to be the same again.

And she knew she wanted a piece of it.

First, some terminology. A second-level domain name is everything that comes before the dot in the Web address: Facebook. EBay. Google. These are easy to buy — if the address you want is available, you can purchase it for less than $20 with a click online. The top-level domain of a Web address is everything that comes after the dot: the .gov, the .org, the .mil. They are a foundational muscle of the Internet.

What ICANN, the California-headquartered Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, was offering was the chance to create and buy what comes after the dot. All McAdory needed was the $185,000 application fee. Which she had, because, she explains, "I'm old, and I'm frugal" (she's 42). So she worked through the lengthy application process, named her company "Atgron," and, two months ago, learned she'd had won the rights to own a domain: .wed.

McAdory was part of a land grab — something that could fundamentally change the way average users experience the Internet.

Until now, the largest expansion of top domain names occurred in 2001. That was a small endeavor: .biz, .info, .aero, etc. None of them became hugely popular. The current expansion will include about 1,900 new Web names. Over the next few months, users will be able to visit sites at .luxury, .gay, .mom and .bible, to name just a few.

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