Wales is to get two new top-level internet domains – one for Welsh speakers and one for the rest of us – under a deal announced yesterday between the Welsh government and .uk registry Nominet.
The move to apply for both .wales and .cymru sidesteps criticism that the Welsh government was planning to abandon the Welsh language in an effort to appeal to overseas internet users.
Under the new plans, .wales will be designed to help market the national brand internationally, while .cymru will most likely end up being used largely by Welsh businesses marketing to Welsh users.
Nominet said that it will submit the bids before the 12 April deadline set for new gTLD applications by global domain name industry overseer ICANN.
The two applications, which will cost a total of £235,000 in ICANN fees alone, are expected to be paid for by Nominet, rather than taxpayers.
But not-for-profit Nominet plans to return excess profits back to Welsh community projects via its Nominet Trust. The Oxford-based company also expects to set up a local, bilingual presence in Wales.
Under ICANN's rules, any gTLD purporting to represent a geographical region needs a letter of support or non-objection from the relevant local or national government, otherwise it is rejected.
Nominet said yesterday that it now has this support. It has also set up a Wales Advisory Group, chaired by former Welsh rugby international Ieuan Evans, to help develop is registration policies.
The decision to go with Nominet comes despite a criticism from a local campaign called dotCYM, which has been pushing for a Welsh-language gTLD since 2008 and had hoped to get government support and funding for its own .cymru application.
dotCYM criticised the Welsh government last November after First Minister Carwyn Jones publicly stated his preference for .wales over .cymru, in order to broaden its international business appeal.
ICANN's new gTLD programme is expected to start producing live domain registries by the first quarter of 2013, but Nominet's may not go live until as late as 2014, depending on how many applications ICANN receives and how fast it can process them.
Nominet is also one of a number of would-be applicants for a .london bid, which is backed by the office of Mayor of London. The chosen registry provider for this application is expected to be named by the capital's official PR agency London & Partners soon.
Elsewhere in the world, applications are also expected for city-gTLDs such as .vegas, .paris and .nyc, as well as regional/cultural gTLDs such as .bzh for the Brittany region and Breton language.
The precedent for these bids is the .cat gTLD, which represents the Catalan language, which was approved by ICANN in 2005 and today has over 50,000 domains under management. ®