Internet industry groups are pushing forward proposals to create new Net domain names, despite criticisms that they will be unworkable and have been chosen undemocratically.
The International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC), a group set up a year ago to shake up the Net's Domain Name System (DNS), has proposed seven new top level domains - generic address suffixes such as .com and .org that can be used in any country. In line with its preliminary proposals announced late last year (see previous stories), it is also seeking to break Network Solutions' monopoly over registering new Web addresses.
The new domain names are .firm for businesses of any type, .store for those offering goods for purchase, .web for groups focusing on Web activities, .arts for cultural and entertainment sites, .rec for recreational organisations, .info for information services, and .nom for people with personal sites. Existing generic domain names (.com, .org, .net and .int) remain, as do national suffixes such as .uk and US-specific ones such as .gov and .edu.
Defending the proposals, the IAHC said they address some problems with the DNS, such as its US-centric structure and lack of processes to settle trademark disputes over domain names. They also expand the number of domain names available to would-be Web sites.
Critics claim the IAHC has not represented all the interested parties during its discussions, although the body itself, which was set up by the Internet Society, claims its membership includes all the key Internet groups and the main international organisations that oversee similar naming and registration issues outside the Net world. Among the 11 groups making up the Committee are the International Trademark Association, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and International Telecommunication Union. The detractors complain that there was no review period for non-members to comment on the proposals.
On the issue of trademark disputes, the IAHC is proposing an optional 60-day waiting period for registering new names, to allow possible challenges to the name to emerge and be resolved. A panel of experts under the auspices of the WIPO in Geneva would arbitrate in these cases.
The IAHC says it is "very hopeful" of winning over Network Solutions to support the scheme, which sets up a free market in companies that can register new names. "Network Solutions accepts the concept that their effective monopoly is coming to an end," said David Maher, a lawyer and IAHC member. There is still debate over whether new registrars will be allowed to assign names using the new high level domains only, leaving Network Solutions with the monopoly over the current suffixes, but the ultimate aim is to have a complete free market. Applications to be registrars will be accepted through this month and the first ones chosen by 15 March.
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