A quiet Internet revolution begins on Thursday. Organizations can begin applying to name and run their own domains instead of entrusting them to the operators of .com, .org, .gov and others.
Up to 2,000 applications are expected to be made to ICANN, the body that oversees the Internet's naming system for so-called "top-level" international domains. The window to grab some virtual real estate will close in three months' time, probably for years.
The most radical move in U.S.-based ICANN's 13-year history is designed to foster competition and innovation, allowing the new domain owners to build new communities, strengthen ties with customers and give consumers more power.
"It's a fascinating new chapter in the Internet's history," says Jonathan Robinson, non-executive director of Afilias, which is helping with applications and already provides key infrastructure for .org, .info and .mobi.
"It's opening up new fronts of Internet real estate and that brings opportunity and threat."
Most of the first wave of applications is expected to come from leading brand owners who see an opportunity to boost their visibility online, or simply fear that others will grab "their" space if they do not do so themselves.
At $185,000 per application, estimated start-up costs of $500,000 and annual running costs of about $100,000, a .yournamehere domain will be out of reach of the smallest companies and Organizations.