Thanks to a comment on my prior post predicting 2011 as the year of IPAM due to the emergence of IPv6 and DNSSEC, a third IPAM-impacting event is expected to begin this year which will affect IPAM planners perhaps not in 2011 but certainly in future years: new gTLDs. Generic Top Level Domains, gTLDs, are those domain labels directly beneath the root in the domain tree. Country Code TLDs, ccTLDs, are two letter country code domain names directly beneath the root which map to those country codes maintained by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency. There are about 250 ccTLDs and examples include .us (US), .ca (Canada), .eu (European Union), .jp (Japan), etc.
Eight gTLDs existed prior to the formation of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which is now responsible for these domain assignments: .com, .edu, .net, .gov, .int, .mil, .org, and .arpa. ICANN accepted seven gTLD applications during 2000 (.aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro) and six during 2004 (.asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, .travel).
An exciting addition to the 2011 round of gTLD applications is the support of internationalized domain names (IDN). IDN gTLDs will enable representation of fully qualified domain names using native or international characters; today only second level domains, domains below gTLDs, may use IDN. Because resource record information is stored and communicated using ASCII characters, IDN defines an algorithm for mapping international character sets, generally represented as unicode characters into DNS-compliant ASCII characters.
Thus users throughout the world will be able to send emails or browse websites typing fully native language character domain names with IDN gTLDs. Of course applicants for native language gTLDs must successfully complete the selection process. The application process for new gTLDs is expected to open this spring.
Beyond the convenience of accessing websites using native language, new gTLDs may ultimately affect organizations that perceive no inherent need to support IDN. Given our shrinking world and the general desire to provide global Internet access, supporting IDN domain names may ultimately become a competitive advantage. Not an immediate concern, but the new gTLD application and award process is certainly something to keep an eye on this year.