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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Money for nothing
domain name list
A sample of the suggested new domain names
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Speculators are snapping up new domain names even though no decision has been taken on which net names will be picked.

The organisation that runs the internet, Icann, is due to make a decision on new generic domain names by the end of the year.

Despite this, several companies in the US are starting to take money for domains they hope Icann will pick.

But web experts are warning speculators that they could be wasting their money because paying for a name gives them no rights over it.


If a domain has not been authorised by Icann, it is purely speculative buying

Lesley Cowley, Nominet

Since 5 September, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which oversees the running of the internet, has been accepting suggestions from companies that want to set up and run new domain names.

Applications close on 2 October and Icann will vote on the applications in November.

Domain diversity

The new domain names should be in use early next year and will be the first new generic names since the 1980s. The domains will complement the .com, .org. and .net names that exist now.

These net names are known as generic domains because they are not tied to a particular country. Instead, they are supposed to describe what the organisation that owns the name actually does.

The .com domain name is intended for commercial organisations.

But the growth of the internet has shown up the short-comings of this naming system, and now Icann wants to adopt some new names to reflect the broader range of organisations online.

In July, Icann released a list of suggested suffixes which ranged from .sex for pornographic sites to .sucks for aggrieved customers.

Those wanting to run the new domains are being asked to pay a $50,000 (35,000) application fee and prove they have the resources to administer it.

But even before Icann has announced which applications have been successful, some US companies are advertising new domains and taking money from people wanting to snap up potentially popular names.

Trademark trouble

Reportedly, more than one person has registered the .sex.web domain name.

One company, called Name Space, is letting people register any of 546 generic domain names - everything from .academy to .zone.

Icann has yet to say how many domains it will approve, but it is not expected to give the green light to more than 10.

Jonathan Robinson, managing director of domain name registrar NetBenefit, said paying for a generic domain address before it is approved is no guarantee of ownership.

"If it is a well known brand or trademark, it certainly gives them no rights," he said.

Icann is insisting that any company applying to run a new generic domain be able to resolve conflicts. Mr Robinson said some new registrars may ask those owning brands or trademarks to sign up first to stymie speculators.

Some of the new generic domains will be known as "chartered" or "sponsored" names which will only be available to organisations that qualify. A similar situation exists with some country code domains at present.

Only companies with an Australian company number are allowed to apply for and own a .com.au web address.

"If a domain has not been authorised by Icann, it is purely speculative buying," said Lesley Cowley, operations director at Nominet which looks after the .uk country code domain. "Let the buyer beware."

Ms Cowley said that while Icann debated new domains many country code registrars were looking at ways to expand the range of names they offer.

Nominet is considering bringing in a suffix that denotes a personal or family website for those who do not want to be identified as a .co.uk.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Paying for the net name
04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Domain name auction row
16 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Go-ahead for new web names
07 Mar 00 | Business
Dot.com registrar sold for $21bn
25 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Madonna in website fight
05 Jun 00 | UK
The battle for cyberspace
26 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Winterson wins on web
26 Jan 00 | Scotland
Firm accused of net name piracy
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