Father of the Web Denounces New sTLDs

Gretchen Gallen
NEW YORK – The founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, recently knighted by the Queen of England, denounced the introduction of new sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLDs) this week at the13th annual International World Wide Web Conference.

Berners-Lee is the director of the W3C consortium and a senior research scientist with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nine sTLDs are separately under review by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and will not be decided on until December of this year. Those sTLDs include the highly anticipated .xxx domain name that would provide a specified domain for adult entertainment companies.

In addition to the .xxx sTLD, applications were submitted for .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .mail., .travel, and two separate applications for .tel.

According to ICANN, the new sTLDs are the first stage of ICANN's strategic initiative to expand the domain name system and incorporate a more streamlined, "globalized" process of adopting generic TLDs.

However, Berners-Lee, who developed a system for organizing, linking, and browsing web pages more than 10 years ago that gave way to the popularization of web surfing, told members of the World Wide Web Consortium that while he is not opposed to some of the sTLDs, he thinks they should bring "social or technological" value to the Internet.

In Berners-Lee's opinion, the creation of sTLDs that promote specific industries is another way of dividing up the web into pieces of commercial real estate, and it forces organizations to purchase domain names for new TLDs to protect their brands.

Berners-Lee called the entire process "unnecessary," and he recently wrote a paper criticizing ICANN's domain name expansion project. His paper was titled, "New Top-Level Domains Considered Harmful."

According to Berners-Lee, metadata and filters can be used more effectively to create separate domain areas for industry.

"The web is about universality," Berners-Lee stated. "It is independent of the hardware you are using, of the operating system, or the application software, and of the actual network by which you are connected."

Among the sTLDs that Berners-Lee most had difficulty with was the .mobi application proposed by Mobi JV that would serve the mobile content industry. MobiJV is backed by Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Noki.

"It would be great if new domains were opened, but ones with social or technology context that make a commitment to the social system and to the integrity of that piece of the web," he said.

Trade organizations and other sponsors submitted all sTLD proposals by March 16.

Jason Hendeles, the original supporter of the .xxx, has been securing support from leaders in the online adult webmaster community since 2000 with the intention of creating an industry-specific domain that will serve adult entertainment commercially, while at the same time protect the privacy and security of adult consumers and battle child pornography.

Berners-Lee was born in London in 1955 and attended Wandsworth's Emanuel School and Queen's College, Oxford. The young inventor was once banned from using the computer at Queen's College after being accused of hacking into the university's network.

Berners-Lee's first foray into technological advancement was building a computer based on the frame of an old television with an M6800 processor and a soldering iron.