New gTLDs and Internet Users

If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the 2 billion plus people who use the Internet. That number is growing daily and as a result, the Internet must change to accommodate it.

A significant change that is about to hit the Internet in the not-too-distant future is the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD (generic top level domain) program. ICANN stands for Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers. It is the organization that essentially controls how domains are used. This program will allow organizations all over the world, such as businesses, social groups, and cities, to apply for their own unique top level domain.

Benefits for Consumers

Proponents expect this to have a very positive impact on the Internet overall. For starters, as an Internet user you’ll have far more choices of TLDs should you decide to register a domain name for business or personal use. You’ll also have a better chance of obtaining a short, memorable domain name – which is next to impossible with .com these days! You may also be able to select a TLD that instantly gives people information about your site. For example, if you’re an attorney practicing under your own name, JohnDoe.law would be much more descriptive than JohnDoe.com or JohnDoe.biz.

Another great benefit of the new gTLDs will be greater security for Internet users. For example, TLDs like .bank will be more secure because they will have to adhere to certain requirements. When you go to enter personal information on those sites, you can rest assured that it’s safe. With websites that contain brand TLDs (e.g. .nike or .canon), you’ll know that the site is authentic and that any information you enter (e.g. for a purchase) is secure.

Criminal Activity and Fraud

The introduction of hundreds of new gTLDs could also cause some confusion and concerns for Internet users. Opponents are worried that new gTLDs will provide new opportunities for criminals and fraud. While the majority of gTLDs will be used for positive things like branding, marketing, increasing global visibility, and creating a more secure online environment for consumers, there is always the possibility that a few will be used for harmful things like phishing, pharming, spreading viruses, or distributing damaging or deceitful information.

As an Internet user, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from these potential problems. For starters, it’s important that you keep yourself informed. One of the best ways to do this is to monitor ICANN’s website (ICANN.org). ICANN will list all the new gTLDs once they are approved along with the applicant information. Updates are also posted on the site periodically. Watch for articles and news stories from other sources as well.

Stay Safe

As an Internet user, it is always important to follow basic safe browsing practices every time you are online. Following are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Always keep your computer updated
  • Protect your computer with a good firewall and reputable antivirus and anti-spyware software. Be sure to scan your computer regularly for viruses and spyware. Keep your software updated to ensure optimal protection.
  • Make sure your operating system is set to show file extensions
  • Avoid websites that you don’t trust
  • Don’t click on email attachments if you don’t know the sender
  • Enter personal and financial information only on sites that you know are legitimate
  • If you don’t know the origin of a program, don’t run it
  • Don’t open e-mails from senders you don’t know.
  • Never access a website from a link in an e-mail, especially an email that asks for personal information.
  • If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an e-mail, do not respond, call the sender or type in the web address in your web browser.
  • Beware of emails sent offering you a prize or a discount and then asking you to choose a user id and password (most people use the same access information for several accounts- easier to remember- thieves will collect your login information and try them at other sites, like financial institutions or credit card sites).
  • Do monitor your account activity closely and watch for unusual activity.
  • Change your password every 60 days and make sure your online passwords are complicated.
  • Note that fraudulent e-mails often include misspellings and poor grammar.
  • Update your anti-virus software frequently. Common anti-virus software includes McAfee and Norton.
  • Beware of e-mails with a sense of urgency; attempting to rush you into action. Messages like, “Update now or we’ll close your account…”
  • Do not include personal or sensitive data in or in response to an e-mail.
  • Look for security features in the address bar of websites you would make purchases from.

By following these tips, as well as keeping yourself aware and informed, you should be able to enjoy all the benefits that will come with the new gTLDs.