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The BBC's Bob Sinkinson
"The internet has become a victim of its own success"
 real 56k

Friday, 17 November, 2000, 15:08 GMT
Doubts surround new domain names
Icann board members AP
The men who decide grill a name applicant
The vote to create new domain names is barely over and already protests about the chosen names are being lodged.

On Thursday, Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board members voted for the new domain names from an initial list of almost 200 to extend the range of organisations that the identifiers can reflect.

But no sooner had the announcement been made than some of the organisations whose proposals were not picked started crying foul.

The protests may have weight because Icann has still to get approval from the US Commerce Department for its choices of new domains.

Icann has been selecting new domain names in a bid to relieve pressure on the crowded .com field, currently numbering around 32 million addresses. Icann board members voted for seven new suffixes including .biz and .name.

Other newly approved names are .info, .pro, .museum, .aero and .coop.

Vote challenge

Although Icann ran the process of choosing new names, the vote is not final. The US Government, in the form of its Department of Commerce, still has the right of veto over the new domains.

New names
.biz - businesses
.name - individuals
.museum - museums
.pro - professionals
.aero - aviation
.coop - cooperatives
.info - general information
Protests may force the department to exercise this veto. Already the World Health Organisation has issued a statement expressing its "extreme disappointment" that its proposal for a .health suffix was turned down.

Other organisations who saw rival groups picked ahead of them to run names they had also proposed are expected to challenge the Icann vote.

Two Democrat Congressmen have asked the Commerce Department to look into the domain selection process because they fear Icann's choices will only reinforce the status quo.

So far, the Commerce Department has said it will act on Icann's recommendations.

Site suggestions

Currently, the internet uses a limited pool of so-called top-level generic domains such as .com, .net and .org. Each nation also has its own country code.

The names .edu and .gov are restricted to educational institutions and government agencies.

In September, Icann asked interested organisations to apply to operate and manage new domain names.

In all, 44 companies sent in applications. Icann made its decision after reviewing the proposals, business plans and technical expertise of the applicants.

Companies proposing new suffixes paid a non-refundable $50,000 for the chance to become record keepers for the new names.

Legal challenge

As registry operators, they would be able to charge a few dollars per name registered, an amount that could add up to millions of dollars for the most popular suffixes.

Icann was facing a legal challenge from Economic Solutions, which said the net body had no right to set up a domain similar to the .bz (for Belize) name that it owned and operated.

But this week a judge in St Louis, Missouri, threw out Economic Solutions' application for a restraining order.

Icann is taking the process of adding new domain names slowly to iron out any potential technical problems.

Once the process is established, however, it expects to add new domains much more quickly.

Up and running

Last week, an Icann report on suggested suffixes was released which advised against picking a .kids domain for children or trying to corral pornographic websites into a .xxx or .sex domain.

The report warned that the problems of defining what counts as child friendly content would limit the domain's effectiveness.

It also recommended against choosing the adult domain because it was hard to see what benefit establishing such a suffix would bring.

Newly elected board member Karl Auerbach has called for hundreds of new generic domains to be set up to end the gold rush that has led to some websites being worth millions of dollars.

Whatever names are chosen, the domains should be up and running by the end of June 2001.

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Health
WHO bid to regulate health sites
19 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Money for nothing
04 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Paying for the net name
04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Domain name auction row
07 Mar 00 | Business
Dot.com registrar sold for $21bn
15 Nov 99 | e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
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