You might have noticed that we’ve launched a few new domain name extensions on 123-reg over the last year or so. Most recently, it’s been the turn of .so domains – you’ll be able to register domain names ending in .so from 1 April 2011.

(No, we didn’t have any choice over the date. And no, it’s not a joke.)

How new domains are created

New domain names aren’t just created and released overnight. The exact process depends on what sort of domain name extension it is:

  • Country code domains, like .uk (for the United Kingdom), .cn (for China) and .co (for Colombia) are administered by the relevant country’s government. In practice, an appointed organisation usually runs the domain. In the UK, Nominet does this. Every country has its own country code. It’s up to them how they use it.
  • Other domain extensions – like .com, .mobi and .info – are created by ICANN, the organisation with overall control of the domain name system. Getting a new extension created is very complicated, though plans are afoot to liberalise the market (mind you, you’ll still need hundreds of thousands of pounds and creating a new extension could take a year or more).

Anyway, let’s just suppose that a new domain name’s about to hit the market. What happens next?

The stages of domain name registration

Once a new domain name extension has received the seal of approval from ICANN, there are a series of stages to the registration process:

  • Sunrise. During the sunrise period, it’s usually only trademark holders who can register domain names. Every trademark holder gets checked individually, to make sure their application is legitimate.The idea is that trademark holders can protect their brand early – although there’s usually a hefty premium to register at this stage.Sunrise is for people who can prove they have the ‘right’ to a particular domain name.
  • Landrush. At landrush stage, anyone can apply to register any domain name. However, they’re not sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Instead, domains are allocated at the end of the landrush period.If more than one application is received for a domain name, it’s auctioned off.Landrush is for people willing to pay more to secure a domain name.

Both the sunrise and landrush stages are usually run by the domain name registrar – the organisation that manages that domain name extension. Each stage can last a month or two. It’s not until the third stage that domain name companies like 123-reg usually start selling the domains:

  • General availability. Following on from sunrise and landrush, general availability is when anyone can take their pick of the remaining domain names.When we talk about pre-ordering domain names on 123-reg, it’s in preparation for general availability – if you place a preorder with us, we automatically try and register your domain name(s) the second general availability starts.General availability is the ‘free for all’, when domains become available at more reasonable prices.

Although not every new domain name follows this process exactly, most are released in a similar manner.

As for our new .so domain names? You can pre-order up until 31 March. If you don’t get your pre-order in time, come back to our site on or after 1 April, when you’ll be able to register .so domain names there and then.

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