New Internet Domains May Fuel Web Crimes

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CLEVELAND— It's being called the Gold Rush of the dot-com era.

Thursday, the Internet's governing body, ICANN, began accepting applications for generic top-level domains.

Web extensions like .com and .gov are among the most popular of the 22 that already exist.

Now, consumers can completely tailor the end to their web address.

"I think it'll just grow the space with the web, and allow other people to get in there and to innovate," said Bruce Williams of Thunder Tech, a web development company. "I think there's a big international component and purpose for this is to expand to those regions, geographies. Would there be a .Ohio? Would there a be a .Cleveland?"

Nabbing one of the new web domains won't come cheap.

ICANN is charging a $185,000 evaluation fee, and there is no guarantee of being approved.

The governing body will begin approving sites in three months.

Sue McConnell, VP of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, said consumers may pay an even heavier price.

"People need to be skeptical, especially of everything on the web," McConnell said. "And again this has always been a problem with the Internet, and the new domain extensions just add to the potential for fraud."

Last March, .xxx sites became available for purchase. Since then, nearly 200,000 domains have been purchased under the adult-site extension.

"Other than this being a little bit more creative or a little bit more branded experience, I don't know if it's totally necessary," said David Skorepa of Aztek, a web development company. "There's a lot of money people are spending defensively that's not really providing a whole lot of extra value.

As for the success of this new web venture – and if the move will put and end to .com sites – Williams said only time will tell.

"The consumer is the ultimate deciding factor," Williams said. "And as we've seen in the past, .com is still, as far as value, is the most valuable extension out there."