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Who Should Control .Church Websites?

Applicants have been revealed for new religious domain names, including .church, .bible, and .catholic.

As the Internet prepares for its biggest-ever expansion of domain names, more than a dozen potential domains revealed this week have religious connections.

On Wednesday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) posted a list of the nearly 2,000 domain names for which various groups have applied. The new domains would open up website address endings beyond today's common ones such as .com and .net.

At a cost of $185,000 per domain application, many of the applicants were big corporations among the likes of Apple and Microsoft; some, including Amazon and Google, applied for multiple domain names.

But groups like the American Bible Society, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications have also paid the fee and applied for domain names (.bible, .cbn, and .catholic, respectively). The Catholic Church additionally applied for the equivalent of .catholic in Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic.

Other religiously-affiliated domain names include .christmas, .halal, .islam, .mormon, and .kosher. Three separate groups applied for the domain name .yoga, and two for .church: Holly Fields, LLC and LifeChurch.tv (the group behind the YouVersion Bible app).

Bobby Gruenewald, innovation leader at LifeChurch, told USA Today that LifeChurch's goal isn't to profit from its control of the domain fees, but to make online outreach easier—for all groups of similar religious beliefs.

"We're not trying to define beliefs or doctrine that people would have to agree upon," Gruenewald said. "This is not an effort to make it exclusive to any type of belief."

At least one other religious applicant plans to be more exclusive with their domain if their application is accepted. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told Catholic News Service that the use of .catholic would be limited to groups with formal canonical recognition, such as dioceses, religious orders, or Catholic institutions like universities and hospitals.

"[Controlling the .catholic domain] will be a way to authenticate the Catholic presence online," Tighe said.

ICANN has opened a 60-day period for comments and objections on the list of domain names. It anticipates ruling on all 1,930 applications over the next year.

Last year, ICANN approved the creation of an .xxx domain. In February, Christianity Todayreported that several Christian colleges joined hundreds of organizations in buying .xxx domains to protect their brands.

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