First of all, let us get some jargon out of the way to make this article easier to read. TLD (or Top Level Domain) is the group of letters that appear after the final dot in a web address. The most commonly used of these is .com. Here in the UK the TLD .uk is probably best known in its most popular derivation which is .co.uk.
Each TLD has its own registrar that looks after all domains. So ICANN looks after .com, .net, .org and others. Nominet looks after all .uk domains which includes .co.uk, .org.uk and .gov.uk.
Anyone starting a business in Nottingham, or anywhere in the UK for that matter, will, as one of their first tasks, look for a domain name that they can register for their business. Usually they will search for .co.uk, .com or both. Other domains are occasionally bought but these two are by far the most popular.
However, anyone who has carried out this exercise will know that it is a frustrating experience. Usually the first half dozen names that you think of have already been registered by someone else. This fact alone is frustrating enough but often when you check out the website, they are not even in use! You see, many individuals and companies register thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of domain names in the hope that they can sell enough of them for a premium to make money. This practice is known as squatting.
It is not illegal to squat in a domain name (although it could be legally challenged in a very expensive court case) and so this situation is likely to continue forever. Therefore, ICANN has come up with an idea that might resolve this problem.
They have now opened up completely what TLDs are available. So for example, we could change our domain name to net.quality. If you have a pub you might have a website called red.lion. No longer will you be constrained to look for a domain name that ends in .com or .co.uk, you could choose a TLD much more appropriate to your business.
Sadly, the reality is slightly different. If you want to register a TLD, you must first of all be approved by ICANN and you must then pay a fee of between $100,000 and $500,000. Companies that choose to do this can then charge anything they want for domain names to be registered using that TLD.
I believe that the reliance on search engines means that the TLD will become less important. As long as companies who register these new TLDs, I think we will gradually see lots of new combinations of domain names.
This might take a long time though. I think many people still believe that for credibility, they must own the .com domain name for their business. It is a belief that might take some time to disappear. But I do believe that it will, allbeit slowly.