Get ready for an explosion of new Internet addresses – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, approved a plan on Monday to “dramatically increase” the number of domain-name extensions available on the Internet, allowing a virtual free-for-all in naming web sites.
These generic top-level domains or gTLDs are currently limited – the familiar .com, .org, and .edu extensions, as well as those assigned to countries such as .us, .uk, and .ly. The board of the nonprofit group voted at its meeting in Singapore on Monday to open that up to other possibilities – from a .peace or a .sport to .hellokitty.
“Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community, or cause in new and innovative ways,” ICANN said in a statement released after the board's vote in Singapore.
"Today's decision will usher in a new Internet age," said Peter Dengate Thrush, Chairman of ICANN's Board of Directors. "We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration."
These domain name extensions help categorize and route Web content, and applications have already been filed for new Internet extensions including .car, .dubai, .eco, .hotel, .love, zulu, .shop, and .sport.
U.S. regulators and members of Congress have been cautious about the plans of the California-based ICANN to open up this world map of Internet domain extensions.
The Commerce Department says insufficient safeguards could open new doors for people to infringe on trademarks and intellectual property rights. It’s already a problem – just try misspelling a common website address and see what pops up.
The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse not only opposes the policy, but is working to restructure ICANN, which was tapped by the Clinton administration in 1998 to take over management of the Internet’s domain-name system.
“Unfortunately, ICANN still suffers from poor internal governance and an opaque policy development process, which often results in decisions that are not in the best interest of the Internet community,” the coalition said in a statement on Monday after ICANN’s vote.
“For that reason, CADNA supports the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to scrutinize the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions contract, through which ICANN is granted the authority to coordinate the domain name system, for the first time since its creation in 2000."
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee, has also been scrutinizing the process. “We will ask tough questions about where they are headed and why … and what they are doing to ensure the rights of brand holders,” Goodlatte said in April.
CADNA, which is made up of several big companies -- including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Marriot International, and Verizon -- is also raising issues with the new domain-name plan.
The Software and Information Industry Association said the decision poses a significant challenge to copyright owners. “While SIIA favored a targeted approach to address specific gTLD needs, such as non-latin script gTLDs, ICANN's approved program is extremely broad,” Scott Bain, the group's chief litigation counsel, said in a statement. “Intellectual-property owners will need to familiarize themselves quickly with the Rights Protection Mechanisms in the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, and expend even more resources and time in enforcing their rights against cybersquatters and infringers.”
ICANN is meeting all week and will also consider allowing domain names in languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Russian that do not use the Roman alphabet, as well as Inter-Registrar Transfers and applications for gTLDs from developing countries.
This article appears in the June 20, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.