Major shakeup to domain names will affect millions

At the end of last week ICANN, the body responsible for the allocation of domain names online, announced it will be adopting changes to domain name structure first proposed at the Paris conference in October. Those changes center around increased localization of existing domain names.

Localization of domains will involve cancelling all existing top level domains and reissuing a geographically local alternative. Whilst the changes won’t actually come into full effect until January 1st 2018, the first email notifications to pre-existing domain registrants will be sent out as early as the second quarter of 2016.


New suffix structure

The new suffix structure will apply to .com, .org and .net domains; decisions regarding other suffixes will not be made until the 2015 conference in Bern. The new domains, when they come into force, will consist of the existing top level domain, followed by a regional, national and continental suffix.

Existing .com domains will be reassigned based on the address of the registrant. So for example, WebdesignerDepot’s new domain name (indicating ‘British Columbia’, ‘Canada’, ‘North America’) will be:

There are two further suffixes which also included in ICANN’s specification, although they are likely to remain silent for now: .ear will be used to represent Earth, and .sol will be used to represent the Solar system—these suffixes are being added for future-proofing and aren’t expected to be in practical use for the foreseeable future. This means that our full domain will actually be:

ICANN’s strategy director Oscar Binnie believes that localising domains in this way will create the opportunity for small firms to grow and expand naturally on the Web:

What we see now, is a small firm in Tallahassee, registering a domain that blocks a similar business in Phuket from operating under the same identity…what will result [once these changes come into effect] is both firms effectively using the same domain name to reach their customers via localized suffixes.

Domain name owners will have first option on securing domains they already have registered, with a six month registration window to open in June 2017. Any domain options not taken up during this primary period will then be made available on a first-come first-serve basis.


Redundant shortcoding

ICANN have promised to introduce redundant shortcoding for domains. The system advocated by the Internet regulator, and reportedly favoured by several tech giants including Google, Microsoft and the W3C, is based on the shortcoding model used by the New York Stock Exchange’s redundancy system. It means that to remove one level of suffix, at least 51% of conflicting domains must resolve to the same IP address.

There are ten provinces in Canada, which means that our potential domains for Canada are:

  • (Ontario)
  • (Quebec)
  • (Nova Scotia)
  • (New Brunswick)
  • (Manitoba)
  • (British Columbia)
  • (Prince Edward Island)
  • (Saskatchewan)
  • (Alberta)
  • (Newfoundland and Labrador)

If we register at least 51% of these domains our domain will be automatically shortcoded to:

We also have the option to remove the national portion of the extension by registering 51% of provincial domains in 51% of North American countries. There are 22 countries that make up North America, meaning that we’d need to hold a 51% share of at least 12 countries.

The best value domains are: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, each with 6 administrative regions. The worst value is the USA with 50 regions, followed by the Bahamas with 32 and the Dominican Republic with 31.

To shortcode our domain for the whole of North America, we’ll need to register at least: 4 domains from Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Costa Rica; 6 domains from Canada, Dominica, Haiti, Barbados, and Saint Lucia; and 8 from El Salvador, and Jamaica; a total of 66 domains, which would shortcode us to:

It’s worth noting that under this system, someone in Durango, Mexico would be able to register, and even be able to shortcode it down to, but they wouldn’t be able to shortcode it further if we have already registered for the whole of North America.

If we want to remove all of the new suffixes we need to shortcode down to a global domain. To do that we need to register 51% of regional domains in 51% of countries in 51% of continents.

The new continental domains—.afr (Africa), .asi (Asia), .eur (Europe), .nam (North America), .oce (Oceana), and .sam (South America)— are joined by .pol, the domain for the South Pole. Importantly, ICANN has determined that no political entities exist on the southern polar continent, meaning that .pol is a premium domain for anyone looking to secure global exclusivity of any domain name.

There are 14 countries in South America, 22 in North America, 31 in Oceana, 42 in Asia, 49 in Europe, 58 in Africa. The cheapest route to a global shortcoded domain would therefore be to take control of the .pol domain and 51% of countries in South America, North America, and Oceana. That would mean registering approximately 217 domains, leaving us with:

The cost of registering a single .com for the maximum 10 year period will therefore rise to around $32,484.00


Managing the change

Over $32,000 for a single domain is excessive for the majority of small businesses, even if the anticipated subscription models allow staggered payment over the full duration of the registration. Freelance consultant Paul Dennehy suspects that’s exactly what ICANN is trying to achieve:

Over the last decade we’ve seen tens of thousands of businesses effectively domain squatting on a global domain presence, whilst only trading locally. ICANN’s move is intended to extend the number of domains available and prevent early Web adopters from trading off that initial investment.

It is unlikely that domain name registrars will be offering the full number of domains available to you. Instead, they’ll offer you the regional domain appropriate to your location, then offer you the option to upgrade to national, continental or global, depending on your budget and the current availability.

It’s unclear at this stage what actual costs will be imposed, it’s highly unlikely the market will bear such large costs, and domain name providers are likely to offer substantial discounts. But domain registrars will be taking on a lot of extra admin work, so they will naturally pass the additional cost on to their customers. Whilst $32,000 may be a worst-case scenario, it is unlikely to be too far from of the mark.


The implications

What is of significant concern is the lack of equality produced by the new system: someone in Canada will be able to claim the national domain subset by registering 6 regional domains; in the USA you’ll need to register 27 regional domains to be the owner of the national suffix; in the UK you’ll have to register 98 regions.

What is of greater concern is the opportunity for greater domain hijacking. On the 1st January 2018, all domains will automatically be converted to their regional equivalents based on registrant location, if the registrants fail to upgrade then anyone will be able to register the domains necessary to resolve the subset down to the global level; should, for example, Google fail to register enough regional domains, the global domain name would be available to register; this means that companies have to pay up, or lose their most valuable marketing tool to a competitor.

This change is likely to infuriate domain owners who thought they’d staked a claim on their corner of the Web, only to find it being resold from under them. However, it will go someway to combatting the domain squatting that plagues new business owners.

One thing is for sure, if we don’t buy into this change, from 1st January 2018 our full domain name will be

[ Update: thanks for all the great feedback, in case it wasn’t clear, this article is an April Fools’ Day prank. ]

Featured image/thumbnail, uses Earth image via DonkeyHotey.

  • Zoop

    Nice April Fools. :)

  • Alex Moyler


  • Yashi

    Oh.. Noooo

  • bcarey

    Will this destroy personal blogging?

    • bcarey

      I have another question, too: How would something like this affect the websites on places like, Squarespace, etc.?

      • bcarey

        Oh… right…. It’s April fools day….. got me! :)

      • chuckie

        It got me too. Awesome April joke. Good thing I read til the end….

        I’m going post it somewhere forget April 1st. Rule.

        This is such a good blague.

  • Rob James


  • Ulrik Groth-Andersen

    Haha, I want (Cantina, Mos Eisley, Tatooine)

  • Kaspars

    I dont know what to believe in today…

  • Openuris

    I should just stay off the internet on April 1st. “” – You’re killing me…

  • Prasanna Kugananthan

    April Fools Right?

  • thorsten

    thank you for this info. will do everything necessary today..

  • pixellingo

    *snicker* Nice one, guys.

  • Kenley

    This is all fine and dandy, but what does it mean for SEO? I see the good, but I see the return of spammy sites.

  • Becca

    April Fools?!

  • Sabrina Serrano

    April Fools?

  • Yeltsin Seal Lima


  • Michael Meininger

    April Fools!?

  • Richard Fonteneau

    You April Fooled me! :/

  • brutedawg

    this sounds like a horrendous idea… wtf happens when all my business gets mistakenly redirected to those dammed Neptunians and I get dinged on the Intergalactic Better Business Bureau?

    • penina

      I’m already getting emails from Neptunian princes.

    • Nodws

      lol i gotta join the Intergalactic Better Business Bureau

  • T.E. Mencer

    I read this non-sense, looked at the date, sighed in relief.

  • Lisa D

    Wow. they almost had me! I think the .ear and .sol is what tipped me off…

  • Caroline Vermeir

    “.ear will be used to represent Earth, and .sol will be used to represent the Solar system—these suffixes are being added for future-proofing and aren’t expected to be in practical use for the foreseeable future. This means that our full domain will actually be:”

    April fools…

  • DiggsDesign

    April Fools….

  • chadwilliams

    this would be a good April Fools. .ear.sol hmmm

  • David Moore

    Look at the posting date…. April 1st. Ring any bells?

  • Titch

    Good April Fools! :)

  • Robert Whyte

    Wow! – is an understatement. I think should add a “dot wtf” to the whole thing.

  • Calvin Hobbes

    It’s April Fools day…

  • Dustin Cartwright

    I for one welcome our new domain name overlords. :D *shudder*

  • Matt

    May i present to you the date: April 1st

  • Cody

    I believe this

  • duh

    april fools obviously

  • gullibledev

    … fell for it. Well done.

  • Paul


  • carolina

    Mmmmm, april fools. ..

  • bgbs

    I guess the tightening of internet has begun, and it will greatly affect small businesses operating globally on the internet. Plus, what this will do, is devalue all domain names. Only companies with large capital will afford to pay for the uncluttered .com name. The little guy is once again getting screwed.

    The beauty of the internet is that anybody, even a fool, could own an awesome domain name. Our freedoms are getting chipped away.

    The problem is not with the legitimate domain owners, the problem is with the domain hoarders. They buy a domain and put it up for sale the next day for 2 grand. The way you could fix this problem is by forcing all registered domains to be hosted. If you bought a domain name, and in one year you did nothing with it, you lose it. But if you bought it, and actually use it for something, then you can keep it. This will clean up domain hoarding really fast and open up millions of top level domains for anybody to register.

    Those who want to operate locally only, say in California, should be able to register a domain with extension, but forcing a complete overhaul of domain naming system for everybody, so that some dude in Africa, who opened a business in 2014 with the same name that another company in the USA has had since 1901, could have the same domain name, is brutal in my opinion. Lets not screw this up for everybody in order to accommodate those folks who were late to the game. Those who are late to the game need to get creative.

    On the other hand, it only April 1st…

  • chronicler_Isiah

    Awesome – it did make me sweat it for a while though :)

  • hdc77494

    I actually reposted this to an industry group before I woke up and checked the ICANN site for a press release. I’m disappointed, it actually sounded like a good idea. LOL

  • Anthony McLin

    Stop giving ICANN ideas

  • Drew McDowell

    Well done, sir. I’m embarrassed to admit you actually had me until .ear.

    • Bill


  • Michael Musgrove

    booooo…..this is why I hate April 1.

  • Speider Schneider

    Do the WDD readers know that all future stories will be fake, Benjie?

    • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      All future stories will be fake, except on April 1st :)

      • Speider Schneider

        That sounds fair.

  • Cloud Storage UK

    haha it sounded quite believable for the first paragraph!

  • Melanie Reed

    I agree this was irresponsible. I can’t be on the lookout all day today for stupidity. I too actually called my boss and we discussed the problem this would incur. I’ll be frank. I am tired of the puerile activity that goes on legitimate sites since this generation has manifested itself through technology. We’re supposed to think this is legitimate humor and that none of us has a good sense of it until we can “get” the other guy. I’m going to stand up and do the unpopular thing and say: Don’t waste my time anymore. I like real humor that doesn’t act like an ass to others. This isn’t “your shoe is untied. haha. I made you look.” This has implications that causes extreme embarrassment to others and decreases their legitimacy in the eyes of their work mates if they get “caught” by it. There is simply a meanness to it and meanness in any age has never been funny. I’ve had zero sleep. Working extra hours because I need to. I respected this site so I didn’t put my “be careful” gear on when going through the mountain of email I have. And let’s be frank, that’s exactly what you were hoping for in the first place, weren’t you? The times they have changed. Because my generation would never have done this kind of thing on a business level. It would have damaged out credibility. Maybe in private but not where you are expected to be responsible and actually think about the consequences to others. You want to have your April fool’s? Great. Then be responsible and put something at the bottom of the article stating so. Even when Orson Welles did his famous “War of the World’s” radio broadcast, he had the manners to break inbetween to let listeners know.

    • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      I certainly very sorry to cause you any embarrassment Melanie. That wasn’t my intention at all. When I wrote the piece my intention was to write something plausible, that readers couldn’t be 100% sure was a joke.

      All Fools’ Day has been a popular festival throughout Europe since the middle ages and it’s certainly normal for news media to play jokes—probably the most famous in the UK is the report of spaghetti trees that the BBC ran in the 1950s.

      The tradition in most English speaking countries is that the jokes end at midday, but our readers are in multiple timezones so we’ll be fessing up a little later than that.

      • Bill

        There is no reason to apologize to this person. We all work. We all have tons of emails to go through. If a “mistake” like this really decreases your legitimacy and causes extreme embarrassment, you need to find new coworkers and learn to enjoy these parts of life.

      • Bradley J. Dean

        Wow, no kidding. Melanie, obviously you’re upset but just like when you receive a maddening email in the real professional world, you need to have a protocol for cooling down before you respond. Take a walk, go for lunch, work on another project for a bit. Whatever works for you.
        Fact is that no one is forcing any of us to come to this site. But we do, because there is value here. In this case that value comes in the form of humility. I too got a couple paragraphs in before I realized what was going on. Just goes to show how much effort Benjie put in to writing a good prank article. Drives the point that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Right?
        Further to your point about involving other people at work, if the person(s) you discussed this with aren’t able to get over a prank like this then you likely have bigger issues with your work environment then what WDD posts on their site. It’s not like any serious action could’ve been taken anyway. Nothing noted in the article was even actionable until 2018. That in itself is another considerate element of how this prank was played.
        Take a breath. Everything’s going to be just fine.
        Thanks for the prank Benjie. I’m going to go share it with my boss now so she can get a laugh too.

      • Melanie Reed

        Thank you, Benjie, for adding the disclaimer. It is much appreciated. It takes a man of character to own up and I admire that. I also am well aware of the antecedents of April Fool’s Day. The point being that things have changed: where April Fools Day was once hardly given a nod even only a few years ago – especially in the business world – it is now growing out of control and where one joke from a major media source was run in the past (and not everyone then thought it was a “hoot” then either), now technology democratizes to millions the lack of thinking about the consequences. In general, the technology world and the people who inhabit it (yes, it is a greater degree of men and I have no problem with that) seem to think they get to dictate the pace of things and the social attitude of a generation (nay, generations hence) and the world and, fellas, the arrogance and extended adolescence behind that attitude that I have noticed (among others) is wearing thin – and this is my field and world, too. Not here to challenge your manhood, not here to spoil your “fun”. Just asking can we finally move on and stop thinking its cool to try and make an ass out of the other guy? This isn’t about over-reacting. It’s about reaching a limit that says ok, this is enough pranks – we’re not in college anymore. And some of us didn’t like it then either. I love humor. Its great. I get a kick out of McSweeney’s and the like. But you go in knowing that.

      • Bill

        Okay, I’ve never used the term trolled, but I think that is what Melanie is doing to all of us. An April Fools joke within an April Fools joke…how inceptional!

      • Melanie Reed

        No, Bill. Its called old fashioned, candid appeal and forthright honesty from someone who I suspect is about twice your age and remembers a different time and has respect for those who have come before her who understood what the word maturity actually does mean. Someone who understands the difference between childish and childlike: One is partial to pranks and the other is partial to perpetual wonder. If even my appeal is being mistaken, then what hope is there that you, my fellow colleagues in this field, will “get” that while I am being sincere, some like you are being defensive about something you really would be greater men without. I respect the accomplishments of so many of you in this field. I would respect even more, the kindness you could be sharing toward others.

      • thorncityultra

        TL;DR – You got me, nice one! :)

        You got me, and only because it actually seemed slightly plausible if not kinda ridiculous. I, too, was on minimal sleep what with working 18 hour days the last two weeks non-stop. Sorting through mountains of email and Asana tasks. Managing freelance and full-time roles. And while it is mildly embarrassing that I got duped, I simply didn’t think to look at the date of the piece (I actually got to the article from the links on the side bar just yesterday so I didn’t have April Fool’s context or preparedness activated any longer). I read it in a hurry right before I left the office, got to the cost part and said “What? No way.” Didn’t pay it much more mind until this morning when I noticed the article was still up on my screen when I logged in. Discussed it with a couple of co-workers and we were all like “That is impossible.” Then one goes, are you sure it’s not an April Fool’s Day prank? BAM. Ha ha. You got me, nice one!

        The real point here is that my co-workers would never judge my credibility because I got fooled by a little prank. It can happen to anyone and that’s part of the fun. If we are too damn serious all the time to not step back and laugh at ourselves (with others of course) once in a while then that’s a shame.

    • Byron Houwens

      You have just made my day! Brilliant..

    • Fred Dibnah

      Then you are a fool!

  • Nodws

    you laugh now, but ICANN is taking notes :p

  • Isadora Design

    You got me until .sol. This is a surprisingly legit article. Great work.

    Isadora Design – Handcrafted Web Design Company

  • Dan Schenker

    This is great, hahaha.

  • Filipe Farinha

    “Localization of domains will involve cancelling all existing top level domains…” – If you kept reading without glancing at the article date then shame on you ;)

  • Gary Gordon

    You’re kidding aren’t you?

  • voltagenewmedia

    Damn you I read this entire thing! lol

  • Ben Raigoza

    Oh wow and I read the whole article! Lol

  • Brenda Baber

    Oh boy, am I pleased I read to the end!! :) Had me worried!

  • llacroix

    They’ve just forgotten *.ear.sol.galaxy.universe.god

  • David Henderson

    Very good, but you might think about taking these down after April fools. you about gave me a heart attack!!

  • Lekker kippetje

    Ahhh you got me…

  • shreyans

    haha. nice joke!

  • softnook

    oooopssss………….. I am reading this on 2nd December………….. :(
    by the way I was shaken by the news… :P