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By Julian Matthews

December 29, 2000

New Domain Names 'Poorly Chosen', Say Tech Authors

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, DEC, 29, 2000, Newsbytes

Domain name governing body Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) continues to be under fire for the new top-level domain names it approved last month.

ICANN, which oversees the Internet addressing system, voted on November 16 to add seven new generic top-level domain (gTLD) names, the first since the 80s, in an apparent bid to stoke competition and fulfill demand for new addresses.

But the seven chosen, .biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop, and .museum, have rankled detractors and disappointed prospective registrants.

Technology writers Bob Rankin and Ellen Rony criticized the choices and questioned the "arbitrary restrictions" placed on them.

"The new domain names are poorly chosen and will only cause confusion and further litigation," says Bob "Doctor Bob" Rankin, author of several computer books and the widely read Internet Tourbus newsletter.

Ellen Rony, co-author of the Domain Name Handbook, agreed, describing the new domain names as a "lackluster clutch."

"ICANN is risk adverse and erred on the side of caution. I question how much the limited purpose of the new domain names will contribute to the soaring demand for desirable domain names. As a process, it just seems that the board is making this up as it goes along," she said.

Rankin explained in his newsletter that ICANN's main charter when it was set up two years ago was to increase competition in the domain name registration process and to consider the addition of new gTLDs.

"I think they did a fine job at the first task, but when it came to the latter they made a mess of it," said Rankin. " 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 to avoid being held hostage by cybersquatters. Those who do succeed in grabbing .biz addresses which conflict with .com sites will either generate confusion or lawsuits. Not a pretty sight. "

Rankin said the same set of problems arises with .info. "ICANN says it's for unrestricted usage, but if I was to register or, how long do you think it would take before I got a menacing phone call from a corporate lawyer? The .pro domain has this problem too. Who wins when the owners of and head to court? And why should it be limited only to doctors, lawyers and accountants, anyway?"

Rankin said the .aero, .coop and .museum gTLDs also seem unnecessary when .com and .org do just fine.

"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. If museums get their own top-level domain, then why not national parks and public toilets?" he said.

The sole gTLD that Rankin likes is .name, which is clearly defined for personal sites, but even this he doubts will be free from litigation.

Rankin's criteria for good domain names are those that have clarity of purpose, can segment domains by content or geography, and have no conflicts with existing gTLDs.

He said the existing domain names such as .com for companies already work well, except that the registrars have not been enforcing the original charters for .net (network and service providers) and .org (non-commercial organizations).

"New TLDs should address very specific types of content. Some of the best ones I've heard proposed, such as .kids, .law, and .health were rejected. I hope they'll reconsider these in the future," he said.

Rankin said he would also support recommendations that adult-oriented sites be relegated to a .sex or .xxx domain, if only to make it easier to filter them out for those who wished to do so.

Author and domain name activist Rony, also in an e-mail response, questioned the selection process for the new TLDs. "The voting was done by consensus with only 12 board members participating. Thus, some of these TLDs were probably selected by less than half of the ICANN board. The overriding question is why didn't ICANN wait one more week to allow the elected at-large members an opportunity to participate in this decision?"

Five at-large members representing five global regions were elected to the board on October 10, but had no say in the selection of the new domains.

Rony added also that 37 rejected applicants, who each had to fork out a non-refundable $50,000 to propose new gTLDs, should receive a full evaluation on why their names did not meet the non-profit board's criteria.

"Where are the 'deliverables' or individualized evaluations to justify the sum each applicant paid? Will rejected applicants receive a discount in the next round?" she asked.

Rony suggested that a better approach to choosing names would have been to collect international consensus about which TLD strings the Internet community wanted, and then ask for technical proposals on the top ten or twenty.

Published in Newsbytes.

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