CeePrompt! Computer Connection
name of the domain game
With the explosion and expansion
of the Internet, it's no wonder that we're running scarce on the
availability of acceptable, descriptive dot-com domain names. Business
entities as well as unscrupulous hostage-takers have grabbed up every name
with even the least possibility of commercial viability. It's estimated
there are more than 20 million registered dot-com domain names at this
But the Internet landscape is set to change sometime soon as a new group of top-level domains debut, which is sure to spark a new round of Grab That Name game. It's the first time since the domain-name system was established in 1984 that new domain names would be added to the Internet. Legitimate businesses as well as cybersquatters will rush like homesteaders, staking their claim to Internet identities in hopes of finding online profits.
Top-level domains, or TLDs, are controlled by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. A TLD is represented by the extension following a Web site name, such as dot-com, dot-org, or dot-edu or dot-net. Typically, the extension tells you the type of entity the name represents, such as commercial, nonprofit organization, educational or networks. Since dot-com is the most prevalent and widely known TLD, it's been quite picked over.
Last year, ICANN solicited proposals for new TLDs from registry operators and received 44 proposals representing hundreds of possible TLDs ranging from dot-kids to dot-sex. From the proposals, ICANN selected seven new top-level domains: dot-aero, dot-biz, dot-coop, dot-info, dot-museum, dot-name, and dot-pro.
Of the new domains, some will be restricted for an express purpose.
Dot-aero, for example, will be restricted to domain names related to the air-transport industry, and dot-museum will be restricted to museums. Dot-coop is specifically for business cooperatives. Dot-info has no restrictions and dot-name is for registration by individuals. Dot-pro will be restricted to accountants, lawyers and physicians.
Don't join the gold rush quite yet for new domain names, however. Formal accreditation of the registrars and final details are still pending. It's expected that new domain names can be registered some time during the second or third quarter of this year.
The startup phase is one of the sticking points of the new TLD release. In the application process, ICANN required each applicant to propose a "well-thought-out-plan for allocation of names during the start-up phase in a way that protects the legitimate interests of significant stakeholders, including existing domain-name holders, businesses with legally protected names and others with which conflict is likely."
In essence, ICANN is trying to curb unethical name grabbing and give legitimate entities the opportunity to lay claim to their rightful identities. A "sunrise period" of perhaps 30 days has been suggested, during which time only trademark owners would be allowed to register domain names.
Freedom of expression
Not everyone is welcoming the new top-level domains with open arms. The ACLU, for one, has formally complained to the U.S. Department of Commerce that ICANN's selection process of the seven new TLDs was "woefully inadequate by any measure." According to the ACLU, ICANN imposed artificial limits on the number of generic top-level domains that "threaten freedom of expression for individual Internet users and noncommercial organizations."
Certainly there are more people looking forward to the new domain names than there are those throwing a wet blanket on ICANN's efforts. It's time we had more choices for domain names than simply dot-com. It will also dilute the actions of registrants who hold desirable names hostage, simply hoping for a bounty.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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