ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) announced this summer that it will begin accepting applications for new general top level domain names (gLTDs). There are currently 22 of these domains (including .com, .org, and .gov) and that number will begin to increase starting next year. This means that a company like Southwest could purchase .air or .fly, and Honda could be found online at Honda.car.

For this domain license, companies will have to pay a (nonrefundable!) $185,000 application fee. If approved, it will cost up to an additional $75,000 annually to maintain. While some companies may want to take advantage of this unique opportunity, many will be paying the hefty price tag simply to ensure others can’t buy the domains relevant to their product or service. The application process is to include a background check aiming to eliminate applicants with a history of domain squatting, and reviews to ensure the company and domain are a legitimate match. The high application fees would be used to fund the application review process, develop the new domains, and cover any legal fees resulting from companies who are not pleased with their application’s rejection.

Applications can be submitted to ICANN starting on January 12, 2012, and the review period will remain open through April 12, 2012. Large entities, Fortune 500 companies, and even cities are likely to take advantage of this initial application period.

What implications does this have for marketers and consumers? AdAge reviewed several effects: For marketers with large clients this likely involves being advised by IT and/or legal to purchase multiple gLTDs. Many companies will want to conduct research with these domains- everything from ways these new domains affect SEO to experimenting creatively with custom or personalized gLTDs. Consumers, especially those who are not as tech-savvy, will experience another element of confusion when trying to determine a website’s safety and validity. As such, the new gLTDs open many doors to those implementing frauds and scams online.

While this change will not likely have an impact on the supremacy or relevance of the .com gLTD in the near future, it will be a notable transformation of the URLs we are used to and an important consideration for online marketing.