ICANN OKs Additional Domain Names

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Sunday formally voted to expand the number of top level domains (TLDs) on the Internet and invite potential registrars to submit plans for additional Web suffixes that could be in operation by early next year.

The resolution — which was passed unanimously by ICANN’s 19-member board at their four-day summit in Yokohama, Japan — was praised by some members as a major step in the right direction. However, others believe it fails to set clear guidelines for the number of new names to be introduced or how they will be phased in.

“It leaves too much to be decided later,” said ICANN chairperson Esther Dyson.

Dyson acknowledged, however, that the move should help ease what she called “the artificial scarcity” of domain names on the Web. “It’s clear this is going to happen,” she said.

That scarcity has been in evidence recently as domain names have been auctioned for top dollar. Web incubator eCompanies paid $7.5 million (US$) for “Business.com” last November, and “Loans.com” reeled in $3 million at a domain name auction earlier this year.

Dyson acknowledged that the first additions in a decade to top level domain names will be more closely regulated than the distribution of the most common names in play so far, which include “.com,” “.org” and “.edu.”

Register.com On the Fence

Richard Forman, president and CEO of Register.com, told the E-Commerce Times Monday that his company has not yet decided whether to apply to become a registrar of the new domains. “What we do know is that we will be a distributor to consumers,” Forman said. “We’re looking at our different options in terms of getting to that point.”

Forman said Register.com had registered close to 1.5 million paid domain names as of the end of the first quarter of 2000, which makes it the second-largest domain registry behind Network Solutions. He also said the company views the new domains as added opportunity and that consumers will benefit from being able to pinpoint exactly what they’re looking for on the Web.

“We’re optimistic about having more domains,” Forman said. “We think it will actually make it easier for consumers and help navigation of the Web. We think this approach is a great way to eliminate confusion and actually decrease trademark infringement.”

Names a Mystery

ICANN, which has been overseeing Internet domain registration for about two years, did not designate what names it will approve, choosing not to act on a subcommittee’s recommended list that includes “.banc,”, “.museum,” “.union,” “.travel” and “.sex.”

Instead, the body said it will take applications from potential registrars starting in August and choose which plans to accept during its meeting this fall in Los Angeles, California.

Companies interested in becoming registrars must pay a $50,000 application fee and provide outlines for how they will distribute names within the domain.

ICANN hopes to avoid confusion over domain names, as well as potential cyber-squatting, a practice in which a domain name is bought by third party whose sole interest is in selling the name back to a logical owner at a premium.

Public Participation

Noticeably absent in the resolution passed by the ICANN board are instructions on how to issue domain names with the new TLDs in a manner that will avoid trademark infringements with existing domain names. For instance, would “Amazon.shop” belong to Amazon.com, or would it be available to the first person or company that claims it?

The resolution does ask that applying companies include “measures proposed for minimizing use of the TLD to carry out infringements or other abuses of intellectual property rights.”

Earlier this year, Internet security firm VeriSign paid $20 billion to acquire Network Solutions — an indication of how lucrative the registration business can be.

Later this year, five at-large members will be elected to serve on ICANN’s board. Several organizations, including Common Cause and the Center for Democracy and Technology, are helping to publicize that election in the hope that consumers will be well represented.

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