There are similar domain name extensions, which are really confusing (at least to me) such as these:

.gift and .gifts

.game and .games

.football and .futbol

This means, in the future, extensions like .coms .nets .orgs may be available.

What are the criteria used to allow these new domain name extensions and who is regulating this ?

  • 2
    Please note that these entities are not called "extensions", but top-level domains (TLDs). The non-country TLDs can be further qualified as generic top-level domains (GTLDs). – marcelm Jul 8 at 14:38

TL;DR No one can predict the future (so theoretically the case you present can happen, in practice I wouldn't bet on it), especially because ICANN, in charge of TLDs creation has a lot of rules and procedures, that change over time, with decisions that can later be appealed, reversed, upheld, and redone. So expect the unexpected.

Now, in more details (the whole subject is fascinating if you dig it)

ICANN world and rules

What are the criteria used to allow these new domain name extensions and who is regulating this ?

ICANN is regulating this, as with all gTLDs. All the names you list are from the 2012 gTLD round. You can learn more about it at https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program

They were rules on what strings can be requested, and even some rules about potential confusion. The bible is the applicant guidebook, which is almost but not completely all the rules: https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/agb/guidebook-full-04jun12-en.pdf with 338 pages

For your specific question, you should find "String Contention Procedures" at https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/agb/string-contention-procedures-04jun12-en.pdf (28 pages) most relevant.

Some quotes:

String contention occurs when either: [..]

Two or more applicants for similar gTLD strings successfully complete all previous stages of the evaluation and dispute resolution processes, and the similarity of the strings is identified as creating a probability of user confusion if more than one of the strings is delegated.


The String Similarity Panel will also review the entire pool of applied-for strings to determine whether the strings proposed in any two or more applications are so similar that they would create a probability of user confusion if allowed to coexist in the DNS. The panel will make such a determination for each pair of applied-for gTLD strings. The outcome of the String Similarity review described in Module 2 is the identification of contention sets among applications that have direct or indirect contention relationships with one another.

"Module 2" is in fact https://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/agb/evaluation-procedures-04jun12-en.pdf (43 pages) that deals with multiple points, but about String Similarity Review, it says this: Review Methodology The String Similarity Panel is informed in part by an algorithmic score for the visual similarity between each applied-for string and each of other existing and applied-for TLDs and reserved names. The score will provide one objective measure for consideration by the panel, as part of the process of identifying strings likely to result in user confusion. In general, applicants should expect that a higher visual similarity score suggests a higher probability that the application will not pass the String Similarity review. However, it should be noted that the score is only indicative and that the final determination of similarity is entirely up to the Panel’s judgment.

What happened

The algorithm was hosted at http://icann.sword-group.com/algorithm/ but this does not resolve any more today (someone at ICANN forgot to read and apply "Cool URIs don't change"). You can find latest snapshot by the Web Archive at https://web.archive.org/web/20131027203439/https://icann.sword-group.com/algorithm/ but of course then the form does not exist so you can not try the algorithm.

Because out of all procedures, and after 8 months, the "Panel" determined that only 2 sets of different names existed as confusingly similar:

[ You can also find details about all "contention sets" that were considered at https://gtldresult.icann.org/applicationstatus/stringcontentionstatus You will see there only considered in fact multiple applications for the exact same string. ]

There are other cases on which one could be surprised, for example photo vs photos or car vs cars (all those 4 exist today). You can as well consider reise and reisen, or property vs properties (those all 4 also exist today).

In short, some tool computed a percentage as similarity but then a panel decided what to take into account or not. And it didn't take a lot into account and then all the objection process at ICANN was so complicated that not a lot of people complained anyway, except the users probably.

This article (http://domainincite.com/11997-after-eight-months-similarity-review-creates-only-two-new-gtld-contention-sets) right after the first decisions says:

For example, we now know that plurals are fair game: if Donuts’ application for .dentist is approved in this round, there’s nothing stopping somebody else applying for .dentists in a future application round.

Of course this plural thing was discussed extensively at next ICANN meetings and you can read http://domainincite.com/12648-plural-gtlds-give-icann-huge-credibility-risk for a detailed discussion.

Note in particular what is says about the strange results of the panel based on what the algorithmic tool could have said otherwise as similarity:

To date, nobody except the Panel and ICANN knows what the logic behind this decision was, but it appears to be based on a very narrow (though not unreasonable) interpretation of what constitutes visual similarity.

The future?

Note that it is "planned" for new round of TLD candidates to open. No one knows when nor exactly the rules that will then be used, and hence if the cases you describe could happen or not. So theoretically anything is possible at this stage, yet for the 3 example you use (coms, nets, orgs), I am pretty sure that the current registries of com, net and org would make their voice heard loudly about something they will surely consider as VERY similar and hence confusing.

Everything is so similar everywhere...

Also, string similarity problems are not limited to this new gTLD round. In the past, ICANN refused for a long time to let .бг exist (Bulgarian ccTLD written in Bulgarian) citing confusion with possible existing .br (for Brazil), and .ελ for Greece in Hellenic, because too close to .ea (which does not exist as ccTLD in fact). Things changed, but it was slow.

The problem is even larger if you take into account semantics: are photo, photos, pics and photography (4 existing gTLDs), "confusingly" similar because semantically kind of synonyms?

.shop and .shopping were considered too confusingly similar for example, see http://domainincite.com/14738-shopping-ruled-confusingly-similar-to-shop or at http://domainincite.com/14239-string-confusion-in-disarray-as-demands-cam-loses-against-verisigns-com for cam that was refused because too "close" to com (but in fact later cam was allowed).

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In fact there are many more overlapping/redundant extensions. Consider for example the real estate TLDs:
.property .properties .realty .apartments .homes .condos .villas .mortgage .rent .rentals .house

plus the variants in foreign languages

And then:
.pics .pictures .picture
.photo .photos .photography

And maybe more in the future. Yes, this is confusing. I think this may even be intentional, up to some extent. Given the possible confusion some registrants may feel compelled to register multiple extensions to cover bases. At least the argument holds when the TLDs in question are all "sponsored" by the same entity.

It is perfectly possible that you register a domain name in a new extension (nTLD) today and that tomorrow a very similar extension is released. This is where things get interesting.

As an example imagine that you own dream.unicorn and you have run a website on it for a while. A few years (or months) later Icann announces that .unicorns has been approved for delegation and since you want to protect your online presence and your brand you don't want someone, a possible competitor or a squatter to register dream.unicorns before you even have a chance. You don't want to miss out.

So in order to secure this domain name you can: exercise TM rights, take part in sunrise, maybe in an auction and you will end up paying a lot of money for a TLD that you did not even want in the first place.

I admit that as a registrant I would be slightly worried that my domain name could be diluted or cheapened (there may be a better word to express this) by a newly-introduced alternative.

Of course not many people are aware of the new TLD releases but your registrar will certainly notify you and send you some personalized "promos" by E-mail. It is all about creating new revenue streams for registries and registrars.

If you're interested, you can follow development on Icann's dedicated website

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No, it doesn't mean .coms etc will become available at all.

When the gTLDs were expanded, companies applied for the new extensions and for whatever reason they were granted by ICANN.

It is pretty unlikely that they would ever add an s to the well established domains.

If you have a look at Patrick's answer to this question - Will .day TLD be available to the public? - you'll find links to lots of relevant information.

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  • Is there any authorised confirmation saying 's' will not be added to well established domains? – siva636 Jul 8 at 3:50
  • I doubt it, just like there is no official confirmation that gTLDs will or won't be further expanded in the future. – Steve Jul 8 at 3:51

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