Date:         Wed, 29 Nov 2000 02:06:02 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 28 Nov 00 - The New Domains
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              TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 38 -- 28 Nov 2000
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               TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: The New Domains
On November 16th the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) gave their official stamp of approval to seven new
Internet domain suffixes.  Read on to see if this will make life
better or worse for netizens.
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You want new domains, you got 'em!  They are as follows:
  .BIZ    - for businesses
  .INFO   - for any website
  .PRO    - for professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants)
  .AERO   - for airlines
  .COOP   - for non-profit cooperatives
  .MUSEUM - for museums
  .NAME   - for personal websites
These are the first new Internet domain suffixes (also known as
top-level domains, or TLD's) to be added since the 1980's, and the
intention was to open up the "domain space" to people who missed the
opportunity to register a .com, .net or .org domain, and provide a
better framework for categorizing websites according to content.
ICANN was chosen two years ago by the U.S. government to oversee
domain names and their numeric address assignments.  The two main
tasks they had were to open the process of domain name registration to
companies other than Network Solutions (which for many years had an
exclusive government contract) and to consider the addition of new
top-level domains.  
I think they did a fine job at the first task.  There are now over 70
ICANN-accredited registrars, and with the infusion of competition into
the domain registration marketplace, prices have dropped.  You can now
register a domain for under $15, as opposed to the $35 price still
charged by Network Solutions.  Here's a list of the accredited
But when it comes to adding new TLD's, I think ICANN has made a mess
of it.  In particular, I just don't see how the addition of the .BIZ
domain helps anyone.  We already had a suffix for businesses, and you
can be sure that there will be a stampede by the owners of existing
.COM domains to register .BIZ equivalents.  Those who do succeed in
grabbing .BIZ addresses which conflict with .COM sites will either
generate confusion or lawsuits.  Not a pretty sight.
And what's up with .INFO?  ICANN says it's for unrestricted usage, so
that means the same set of problems that .BIZ brings.  If I was to
register NIKE.BIZ or PEPSI.INFO how long do you think it would take
before I got a menacing phone call from a corporate lawyer?  To a
certain extent, the .PRO domain has this problem too.  Who wins when
DOCTORSMITH.COM and DOCTORSMITH.PRO head to court?  And why is it
limited to doctors, lawyers and accountants?
The .AERO and .COOP suffixes don't bother me so much, but they seem
unnecessary.  Is there an airline that doesn't already have a .COM
address?  And why are non-profit business cooperatives so special that
they need their own domain space?  Sounds like a job for .ORG to me.
How about .MUSEUM?  Sounds nice, but the .ORG domain seems to cover it
nicely already.  If museums get their own top-level domain, then why
not national parks and public toilets?  The only new arrival that I
like is the .NAME domain.  With a clearly defined purpose of just
personal sites, nobody should be confused by FORD.COM and FORD.NAME,
but you never know.  I'll betcha lots of well-known companies will
rush to register their .NAME-sakes just to make the lawyers happy.
Back in July, ICANN Chair Esther Dyson expressed concern that more
questions about trademark infringement would arise if new top-level
domains were added.  But they did exactly that, and in a way that
seems to MAXIMIZE the potential for confusion and litigation.  Some
are criticizing ICANN for creating a situation that makes registrars
richer and doesn't really benefit users.
It's too bad ICANN didn't just call and ask my opinion - they could
have saved me the trouble of saying all those not-so-nice things about
them.  Here's what I think makes a good top-level domain (TLD):
 - Clarity of purpose
 - Segments domains by content or geography
 - No conflicts with existing TLD's
Think about the domain suffixes we already have...
.COM - companies
.NET - network and service providers
.ORG - non-commercial organizations
.GOV - government sites
.EDU - educational institutions
.XX  - country specific (ie: .UK, .CA)
They all work pretty well, except that Network Solutions has not done
a good job of enforcing the .NET and .ORG charters.  The biggest
problem we have now is the overcrowding of the .COM space.  I think we
could make good progress in that area by creating some new TLD's that
address very specific types of content.  Some of the best ones I've
heard proposed, such as .KIDS, .LAW, and .HEALTH were rejected by
ICANN.  I hope they'll reconsider these and others in the future.
I've also seen recommendations that adult-oriented sites be relegated
to a .SEX or .XXX domain.  I don't agree that this would make adult
content easier to find, but it WOULD make it easier to filter for
those who wish to do so.
Given that ICANN has gone ahead and created these new suffixes, some
of you will want to run out and register new domain names.  I have
good news and bad news for you.  The new domain name suffixes are not
expected to become available for registration until the middle of next
year.  But some registrars are allowing people to pre-register these
domains now.
However, there is no guarantee that you will in fact get those domain
names.  ICANN has not sanctioned a pre-registration process, and the
companies that are offering the service can only promise to submit
your pre-registered domain name at the earliest possible time in the
hope that you might get there first.  One place where you can throw
your hat into the ring is:  
I've heard there may be other companies offering pre-registration of
the new top-level domains, but I don't have any details.  Personally
I'm going to take a wait and see approach to this business.  There are
still people suing ICANN about the TLD's that were approved, and the
ones that were not approved.  And I've also heard that the U.S.
Department of Commerce has to give a final blessing to the new names
before they're officially official.  We'll see how it all turns out.
That's all for now, I'll see you next time!   --Bob
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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