Brace yourself. The Internet is about to get a lot busier and more cluttered.
The Internet addresses that we are accustomed to using -- .com, .net and .edu - will be getting a lot of company next week. On Feb. 4, more top-level domains, which connotes everything to the right of the dot in an online address will be made available. They will be the first of what will probably be hundreds of new top-level domains, according to James Cole, spokesman for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ( ICANN), the organization that oversees registries and Internet domain names.
The new domains, such as .bike, .wed and .book are on the way, according to Cole. They'll be joined by new domains for major companies, including .google, .ford and .apple.
Cole said there have been 1,930 applications for new domains. Hundreds are expected to hit the Internet, and the flood will begin next week.
"It's a process that will take over a year or over two years possibly," said Cole said. "We approach this in a very methodical or cautious way. We don't want to do anything to upset the structure of the Internet."
Regardless of how methodically the new domains are introduced, some analysts say this could cause a lot of confusion.
"I think it's a good option for some companies but .com will still live on," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Even if a company got something like zeus.books, I would still buy something like zeus-books.com."
While Kerravala acknowledged that the new domains would make it easier for users to remember an address -- think trucks.ford, instead of ford.com/trucks -- he doesn't see many benefits, at least not enough to outweigh the issues it may cause.
Google, for example, already has well-established Internet addresses, such as maps.google.com and plus.google.com. Would getting a .google domain mean that the company would change all of its addresses?
In a 2012 blog post, Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist, said there were still questions about the diversity of the domains available.
"In 2016, it's estimated that almost half of the world's population will be online, yet nearly 50% of the websites we visit are found in the .com top-level domain, which was among the first created in 1984," Cerf wrote. "Given this expansion process, we decided to submit applications for new TLDs."
Google applied for nearly 100 domains, including .google, .docs, .youtube and even .lol.
Would a bevy of new addresses make it easier for people to find what they're looking for online? Or would it cause confusion for those accustomed to searching for .com and .net addresses?
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Current Analysis, said he's expecting more confusion than benefits. "I think users don't pay any attention to [top-level domains], so anything without a .com is in a back alley, hidden from view," he said. "If you want people to remember your site, you better use .com. By using a new domain, you're asking people to remember twice as much -- the name plus the new domain.
"The ostensible benefit is you can get a simple url, like www.boston.bikes, but I think you're much better off sticking with .com, even if it means betterbikesofboston.com," he added. "The .com is the way to attract traffic and make it easier for your audience to find you."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
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