What are known as Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are becoming available on a larger scale. ICANN is accepting applications for new TLDs without many limitations (other than domains that they call ‘confusingly similar’ and the potentially prohibitive cost of $185,000).
Examples of TLDs are “.com” or “.info” and have thus far been mostly limited to a handful of business-inspired suffixes (.org/biz/tv/fm) or country-specific (.ca/fr/us/cn) and in the USA government versions (.us/gov/mil). These are not like regular domains - actually called “second-level” domains - that people purchase all the time, like (google/yahoo/msn) that are essentially used as the owners decide. With TLDs, as stated on their FAQ page, these domains MUST be used: “ICANN expects all new gTLDs to be operational. One of the reasons ICANN is opening the top-level space is to allow for competition and innovation in the marketplace. The application process requires applicants to provide a detailed plan for the launch and operation of the proposed gTLD. gTLDs are expected to be delegated within one year of signing a registry agreement with ICANN.”
So, no squatting on these domains… these are regulated in a much different manner than second-level domains (like “tumblr” or “addrenaline”). However, this does open up a much more interesting landscape - with wide-ranging options to classify and organize websites in the future. Imagine all “.com” domains had to be corporations, or all “.food” sites were restaurants - it could really change how and why domain names are purchased and phrases could be created (things like “www.ridiculo.us” could lead to “www.safe.pregnancy” or “www.ontario.canada.police”and who knows what else).
Time will tell how many, and what sorts of Top Level Domains get submitted to ICANN, but we are at the beginning of a much more fluid and communicative online landscape.