Critics have blasted proposals to increase the number of top level domains for naming Internet sites. "Unworkable and unfair" were the criticisms echoed by many parties, following the release of draft plans from the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC), which controls Internet naming procedures.
The IAHC's preliminary proposals (see story on 2/1/97) increase the number of top level domains (those that can be used in the name of any site)to 10 and offer licences to multiple, competitive bodies to authorise and register new site names. Currently there are three top level domains - .com, .org and .net - plus one purely for international bodies reporting to multiple governments (.int). All registration is carried out by one company, Network Solutions.
The main attacks are on the lottery system proposed for selecting registration authorities - about 30 a year will be appointed from a list of candidates expected to run into many hundreds. Also criticised is a 60-days waiting period before registered domain names can be used - the main objection from corporates, which are concerned they will have to delay opening their new Web sites.
Would-be registrars claim the lottery system, and the limit on numbers of registrars, restrict free competition among Internet naming bodies and give Network Solutions an unfair advantage. Some have already set up registries for unofficial domain names - for instance, Image Online Design of California has licensed .Web through an unsanctioned naming service called Alternic. The IAHC is keen to stamp out such anarchy, but its critics say it will only achieve this by opening up its own system.
In response, the IAHC said it was "very keen to avoid making this issue into a war", and that it would take all objections into account before issuing its final proposal on 17 January. It also said that the lottery system was only a temporary stopgap until the question of Network Solutions' contract was resolved.
However, others claim the IAHC has ignored 22 proposals submitted by the Internet community and that its committee is weighted heavily in favour of corporates and those who own large trademarks and want to stop others using them on the Net, even if they are common names. "The underlying premise is that a domain name is a trademark and that premise is fundamentally flawed," said a statement from Kathy Kleiman, a lawyer heading up the Domain Names Rights Coalition, which will lobby the IAHC to make its naming procedures more open.
Network Solutions, which is being pressurised to give up its monopoly and also to let other registrars handle the existing domain names as well as new ones, said it is still evaluating the draft proposals. It currently registers about 80,000 Internet site names a month at a cost of $50 a year each.
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