ICANN Moves to Increase Domain Names

CARTHAGE – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced its intention to introduce a new series of generic top level domains (gTLDs), as well as new sponsored top level domains (sTLDs), which are designed to serve specific communities.

The new gTLDs, particularly any that include non-Roman characters, may not be available before late next year, however, as their potential impact on the stability of the Internet root server system is still being examined, although the authorization of new sTLDs may occur much sooner than that. The .pro sTLD, which was recently released as a means of providing "professionals" with their own TLD, is a good example.

While forces within the online adult industry both for and against the authorization of a new .xxx TLD are waiting to see if it will be approved, no word has been forthcoming from ICANN as to whether or not the controversial TLD is in our immediate future. As with all TLDs, a rigorous examination of the economic and intellectual property issues, including the recommendations of expert advisory panels and relevant organizations must be obtained before proceeding with .xxx.

Competition amongst registrars is also a concern of ICANN. "ICANN has now moved forward with a program to introduce further competition and choice in the top-level domain markets," said Dr. Paul Twomey, ICANN's president. "We will engage in this directive in order to develop a streamlined process for the introduction of gTLDs. We will be using the early sTLD round to help us engage the community in the process and to further evaluate the best manner to achieve the appropriate balance between corporate/sponsor control of TLD's and ICANN's role of 'management on behalf of the Internet community'."

Concerns from the Internet community have also been voiced over duplication within the domain name system due to current domain name holders registering numerous permutations of their domain names in order to protect their brand and marketing efforts. An easy example is a company registering the "dot-net" and "dot-org" versions of their existing "dot-com" names, a practice which is spreading to "dot-biz" and beyond.

Couple this practice with registering of common misspellings of the original name, as well as both the hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions of multiple word domain names, and the possibilities of lower than expected net gains in the number of available, and desirable, domain names is clear. This situation is forcing a careful examination of the best ways in which new TLDs should be made available.

To further increase the availability of domain names, ICANN, along with the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is moving ahead with a full technical assessment of the issues surrounding the support of multilingual domain names, a move that would allow the use of non-English characters within domain names, dramatically decreasing the shortage of desirable, and relevant domain names for global business interests.

ICANN will next take up the issue of expanded availability of TLDs at its meeting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, April 4-8, 2005.