London will join New York City (.NYC) and Las Vegas (.Vegas) next year as one of the first cities to get its own Web domain suffix: .London. On Nov. 15, it was announced that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) had awarded the U.K. capital its own domain suffix, which will be available to businesses, organizations and individuals based in London starting in spring 2014.

"This is an excellent opportunity to expand London's digital presence, which in turn is set to generate funds to invest back into the city," Mayor Boris Johnson said during a City Hall ceremony.

Chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings, Fred Krueger, commented that he was “delighted” that London websites will have this option. “We are sure that it will be of significant benefit to the businesses, communities and individuals wanting to associate themselves with London and a powerful mechanism for enhancing London's digital presence," he told TheDrum.com.

In 2012, ICANN called for applications for new suffixes as part of their Generic Top-Level Domain program (gTLD) and received nearly 2,000 applications, 1,700 of which were approved for initial evaluation to become actual top-level domains. Since then, about 20 have been integrated into the Internet’s naming system. Many cities were among the applicants, including Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Brussels, Sydney and Miami. They also received industry-specific applications like .wed for wedding companies, and .buzz for public relations, marketing and advertising companies.

Silly and Unnecessary?

There are today about 250 top-level domains, but .com, .org, .edu, and .gov dominate the Internet, together accounting for more than 8 billion websites. After a large dropoff, much of the list is composed of country-specific domains like .uk (United Kingdom), .ca (Canada), .de (Germany), .jp (Japan), .fr (France) and .au (Australia). The .com top-level domain is the most popular by a wide margin. Given .com’s popularity, the news of London’s new domain name has prompted many in online communities to ask “why?” What is the value or utility beyond using just .com or .org? One commenter on Reddit responding to the London news story simply wrote “.sillyandunnecessary.”

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Top Level Domains Holding, told ICANN that small businesses are the ones who stand to gain the most from these kinds of changes online. “I think that although it’s very nice to have plumber.com, if you’re a plumber in London, you’ll actually do better with plumber.london because people can identify where you are doing business,” he said. “I don’t think you can tell from a .com ending what kind of website you will find there. In the case of .London, you can be pretty sure you will have a website that is connected in some substantial way to the city of London.”

James Cole, global media coordinator for ICANN, told Government Technology that this reasoning is common among many city applicants he has seen, but ICANN takes a neutral stance on whether such domains would have any added utility or real value.

“Our goal in the gTLD program was to promote competition and creativity within the domain name space on the Internet,” Cole said. “It’s really up to the consumer and up to businesses what they want to apply for. In this case, the city of London decided they wanted to apply for .London and it’s up to them how they want to use it.”

There are only a few restrictions on top-level domains, Cole said. For instance, .redcross wouldn’t be allowed for legal reasons, but aside from weeding out joke applications or those that would present legal problems, ICANN’s job is just to act as a facilitator for whatever people want to do when it comes to domain naming, Cole said.

Whether new regional or industry-specific top-level domains are of any benefit is yet to be seen. New York top-level domains, which were announced to have passed initial evaluation this summer, are to become available in 2014, according to the official .NYC website.

Some of the top-level domains now being considered by ICANN include .HIV, which would be used for charities raising money for HIV, .pink, which applicant Roland Laplante said could eventually outshine .com given the popularity of the color pink, and .donuts, which would presumably be used by doughnut companies.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com