Today was a historic day at ICANN’s 41st international meeting here in Singapore. In a special meeting, ICANN’s Board of Directors approved the new Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) program, finally setting in motion the process to introduce new gTLDs to the Internet.

The decision follows years of planning, discussion and deliberation between a multitude of groups, and was met with cheering and a standing ovation. With the approval of the program, hundreds of new domain extensions will be introduced to the Internet. These will range from cities (.NYC is a possibility) to brands (.CANON is planning to apply), and everything in between (extensions like .SPORT, .ECO and .MUSIC will now all be possible).

As a press release ICANN circulated today put it, “New gTLDs will change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence. Virtually every organization with an online presence could be affected in some way.” It is certainly a significant development.

First new gTLDs expected to be live in 2013

Now that the program has been approved, applications for new extensions are scheduled to be accepted between January and April 2012. Once this application window closes, the full list of applicants will be published, and successful applications will be awarded by November. This will likely pave the way for new extensions to be live in 2013. ICANN intends to get a global communications campaign underway shortly to increase awareness of new TLDs. (As I write this, ICANN is outlining to conference delegates their plan to conduct a comprehensive communication program in five major geographic regions.)

Here at OpenSRS, we’re already looking forward to the opportunities the program will provide our resellers. We’ll be watching program developments closely as it gains momentum, and we will begin to review the extensions we think could be of interest to resellers as applicants come forward (and we’re always interested in hearing from you on the subject, too).

Find out how it will affect you at HostingCon 2011

With the program now underway, we’ll be providing regular updates, so definitely keep an eye on this blog as developments occur. And if you happen to be in the San Diego area in early August, I’ll be holding a session on what new TLDs mean to web hosting companies at HostingCon on August 8.

It was a privilege to be in the room here in Singapore when this historic program was approved. It was a momentous day for domain names, and the atmosphere here since the vote has been positively electric. As the program gets underway, I look forward to the innovation and excitement that the program will bring to the domain name world.

Image courtesy ICANN