Among other things, domain names make it possible to assign a unique address to every website. These names, such as ofcom.ch, are currently used very often, primarily for accessing websites or sending e-mails. Traditional extensions, such as .ch or .com, will be augmented by new top level domain names related to brands or geographic names. In this context, the Confederation has set a strategy which seeks to protect the country’s public interest in relation to the management of domain names. Furthermore, it has acquired the extension .swiss from ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). The registration of .swiss domain names is possible from autumn 2015.
In order to be able to receive information sent via the internet (e.g. a page displayed in the navigator), every computer must have a unique address consisting of series of numbers, the so-called IP address. They are substituted by names which are easier to memorise, so that users must not concern themselves with these numbers. These are known as domain names, which generally consist of sequences of letters separated by dots. The domain name system (DNS) is sub-divided into several levels. In the example www.admin.ch "ch" represents the top-level domain and "admin" the second-level domain.
Every second-level domain is unique and can be registered only once under a top-level domain (TLD).
In most cases, registration is on a "first come, first served" basis, i.e. the first person to apply for a domain name becomes its holder.
At the global level, administration of the DNS and the introduction of new top-level domains (TLDs) is entrusted to the private organisation Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Second-level domain names can be assigned by appointed "registries", which are used by ICANN for the administration of top-level domains, or by the "registrars" accredited by ICANN.
The applicant for a domain name is free to use the registrar of his choice. Many registrars are able to offer registrations in the same domain at different rates.