Ask Brad White why this is happening — Is the Internet too crowded? — and he chuckles. "The premise of that question is that need dictates innovation," says White, the director of global media relations for ICANN, which was founded in 1998 in response to a proposal by the federal government's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. But need, White says, doesn't dictate innovation. "No one demanded Facebook" before Mark Zuckerberg introduced it. "No one demanded Twitter." Sometimes the technology is invented, and then users figure out what it's good for.
McAdory's vision: lots of engaged couples want their own wedding sites, but the addresses they want aren't available because other couples are already parked on them. Through the .wed domain, couples could purchase an inexpensive address — MarkandJessica.wed — for two years, long enough to see them married. After that, the site's cost would drastically increase, pricing the couple out, leaving the space open for a new Jessica and Mark.
From a business side, one sees why this is a big deal: competing interests scrabbling to stake out more space in the virtual world. But culturally, it also reflects the fact that the Internet is still relatively new — the equivalent of the party-line era of the telephone. What we have now doesn't begin to look like what we'll have in even 10 years. ICANN is in the final stages of application evaluations. New sites could appear as early as late September. "People," says White, "are going to sit down at their browsers and see a whole new world."
Since the mid-1990s, the experience of visiting the Internet can be encapsulated in three letters and one punctuation mark: .com. When spoken out loud: dot-com. It's the most common suffix on the Internet, representing more than 100 million websites, and it has become a stand-in for the Web as a whole. It came about almost by happenstance.