New Top-Level Domains Near
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In a landmark decision during its meeting in Yokohama, Japan on Sunday, the board of directors of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted unanimously to allow the creation of new top level domains (TLDs).
But while the decision to open the Domain Name System (DNS) to new TLDs puts to rest a question that has been on the minds of many Internet users for years, some, including a few members of the board of directors, have criticized the resolution for not addressing the most important issues associated with their creation. Most importantly the resolution does not spell out how many new TLDs ICANN should allow, whether they should be generic (like .com or .net) or differentiated by use (like .edu, restricted to educational institutions), and what sort of copyright protections are needed.
ICANN has previously acknowledged that the introduction of new TLDs is not easily reversible because the elimination of a TLD -- and all the domain names registered within it -- may create significant hardships. For this reason, some ICANN members have argued that only a small number of new TLDs should be introduced at first.
However, the resolution does call for the introduction of new TLDs in "a measured and responsible manner." The board adopted the following schedule for proposals of new TLDs:
- Aug. 1: ICANN will issue a formal call for proposals by those seeking to sponsor or operate a new TLD
- Oct. 1: Deadline for receipt of proposals
- Oct. 15: Deadline for public comments on proposals
- Nov. 20: ICANN to announce selections
- Dec. 31: Target date for completion of contract negotiations with those selected.
The resolution said each proposal should include a number of important details. First, each proposal must have full information about the technical, business, management and financial capabilities of the proposed operator of the registry. Second, proposals need to include detailed descriptions of policies to promote orderly registration of names during the introduction of the TLD. Also, applicants must spell out the details of arrangements to protect users in the event of registry failure. Finally, applicants must include measures for minimizing use of the TLD to carry out infringements or other abuses of intellectual property rights.
ICANN said the guidelines it will consider for assessing proposals include:
- The need to maintain the Internet's stability and protect domain name holders from the effects of registry or registration system failure
- Enhancement of competition for registration services at the registry and registrar level
- Enhancement of the utility of the DNS
- Evaluation of delegation of policy-formulation functions for special-purpose TLDs to appropriate organizations
- Extent to which the proposal meets previously unmet needs
- Importance of appropriate protections of rights of others, including intellectual property rights.
But the proposal system has also stirred up controversy because the board has established a $50,000 non-refundable application fee. The board said the fee will cover the likely costs of the evaluation and approval process. This has angered some non-commercial Internet stakeholders who say it is a further example of ICANN favoring the business community over individual users.
In related news, the board also finalized the process for selection of five directors by the at large membership. ICANN said the five new directors should be elected in time for ICANN's annual meeting in Los Angeles on Nov. 13 to 14. ICANN said the determination of the ballot will take place between now and Aug. 31. Nominations by the nominating committee will be completed by July 31 and the Member-nomination process will be completed between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31. There will be a voter education/dialogue