The head of the body that regulates internet domain names has defended the $350m process by which new domain names will be allocated in what has been described as the “web’s big bang”.

The number of top-level domains, such as .com, is set to jump from 22 to hundreds after nearly 2,000 applications were made to register new web suffixes, such as .cloud or .barclays.

Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit group that regulates internet names, said the system by which the applications would be processed was “fair” and “a level playing field”, after the process came under fire from several critics.

Applications are set to be processed consecutively in three or four batches, meaning that some new suffixes will go online before others. This batching of applications has been attacked by groups aiming to register new domains.

Peter Thrush, chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings and a former chairman of Icann, said: “The consequences of batching are severe. People who don’t get in first will suffer commercially, and in some cases fatally, against those who get into the first batch.”

“Whoever gets out of the gate first is going to get a significant advantage,” he said.

Mr Beckstrom defended the use of batching: “The batching system, as we’re currently administering it, was approved and was publicly posted before anyone filed an application. If anyone didn’t like the batching solution they could have expressed their views back in December.”

Mr Beckstrom also defended the use of “digital archery”, whereby applicants are told to click a button on a website at a certain time, with those closest to the mark being processed in the first batch.

“On average, it’s fair,” said Mr Beckstrom. “Even if you used a random number generator, random generators aren’t perfect. [With digital archery] everyone has an equal ability. It’s a level playing field.”

The application process is expected to be discussed at the Icann board meeting later this month in Prague. “If the board wishes to change it, they can, and then we’ll have to review the whole programme,” said Mr Beckstrom.

Other proposals include processing all applications together, rather than in batches, although Icann argues that such an approach would slow down the process. “We’re not set up right now to process them all as one batch,” said Mr Beckstrom. “We’re not staffed for that. We’re not organised for that. But if that’s what the board wishes to do, then that’s what we would do.”

Icann will reveal on Wednesday which organisations have paid the $185,000 application fee to be in contention for new domains, with fierce competition expected for generic suffixes such as .search.

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