By 1996, concerns had risen over the extremely fast commercialization of the Internet -- it had only been since 1991 that commercial restrictions on the Web were lifted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the number of computers on the Internet was doubling every three months.
In May 1996, many top level domains we still use today, such as .com and .org, were already in place. But Dr. Jon Postel, head of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), an organization that managed the allocation of IP addresses, suggested revising the domain name system to account for the Internet's tremendous growth. His initial proposal given in the month of May posed adding 50 entirely new TLDs into the mix. The plan drew a significant amount of criticism from the technical community, mostly because the plan also allowed anyone the right to register names in as many as three of the new TLDs, potentially decreasing competition.
After a few revisions, with help from the Internet Society (ISOC) and a lot of further debate, the IANA and the ISOC organized the Internet International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) in September 1996 to figure out the domain name problem. The IAHC was essentially a large coalition -- a temporary alliance brought together to focus on one issue -- made up of the several organizations. Along with the IAHA and the ISOC, the IAHC also included the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and International Trademark Association (INTA).
In December 1996, the IAHC issued a draft of a report, which outlined its ideas for what it argued was a smoother, more organized domain name system. In the report's final version, released in February 1997, the IAHC addressed an inconsistency with the definition and nature of certain top level domain terms. At the time of the report, TLDs were generally divided into two classes. The first International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 3166 country codes, also commonly known as national TLDs (nTLD), included names such as .us, .fr, .ca and .au. International TLDs (iTLD), on the other hand, included nearly everything else, including .com, .org and .net.
The IAHC took issue with this, noting that the term "international" implied that the domain belonged to multiple national governments -- even though a TLD such as .com can be used by anyone across the globe, that doesn't mean the owner of that .com is a multinational group.
The committee advised using the term generic top level domain (gTLD) to describe something like a .com or a .org. Any applicant can use a gTLD without being required to operate on an international level to do so. Following this suggestion, the IAHC finally recommended seven new gTLDs; to read about them, see the next page.