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The BBC's Mark Ward
"Icann has not moved fast"
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Sunday, 16 July, 2000, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Go-ahead for new web names
New domain names in the pipeline
The private corporation overseeing changes on the internet has approved the creation of the first new top-level domain names on the web since the 1980s.

The decision opens the way for a raft of additions to existing website suffixes like ".com" and ".org" to cope with the increasing demand for website addresses.

But the pronouncement made at a conference in Japan has already come under fire for being too vague. Critics say the corporation should have been more decisive on the details of how the new names will be introduced.

The addition of new names is aimed at boosting competition among companies that sell and register domains for website owners, and giving customers more names to choose from.

It would also make it easier for internet users to search the web for specific topics.

Travel agencies, for example, could use a ".travel" that would save tourists time in finding the companies.

Limited 'dotsomethings'

At the moment, there are only a limited number of suffixes on the internet such as ".com", ".gov", and ".net", in addition to special two-letter codes assigned to countries, such as ".uk" for the UK.

The decision was passed unanimously by the 19-member board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (Icann).

"It's beautiful. It's a major step," said Steinar Grotterod, of Active ISP, an internet service provider in Oslo, Norway, but added: "It's taken some time to come to this step."

The decision has also been criticised by some for failing to set clear guidelines for the number of new names to be introduced and how they will be phased into use.

Network chaos?

Experts are worried that the proposed changes could result in widespread trademark infringements and confusion among internet users.

Dyson BBC
Esther Dyson: "It leaves too much to be decided later "
"It leaves too much to be decided later," said Esther Dyson, an Icann board member.

Some are worried that companies or individuals may try to register hundreds or thousands of choice names, such as "," at bargain rates and then sell them for a hefty profit.

"It's going to be a bloody mess," said Martin Burack, trustee of the Virginia-based Internet Society. "It'll be like scalping tickets for a hot show and this is the hottest show in town."

Vague resolution

The resolution passed by Icann calls for the introduction of new names in a measured and responsible manner.

The group set a schedule for the phasing in of the names, with a target date of 31 December for wrapping agreements on the new domain names.

But the resolution did not spell out how many new names would be approved or whether they would be specific, with certain names restricted for use by specified groups or individuals. There was also no statement on how trademark infringement could be avoided.

Worries about the introduction of new domain suffixes have bogged down discussion of the move for five years and were a main theme running through the four-day conference in Yokohama.

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See also:

04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Net groups in world wide wrangle
04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Domain name auction row
15 Nov 99 | e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
05 Jun 00 | UK
The battle for cyberspace
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