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Sir Tim: 'No New TLDs Please'

NEW YORK -- World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee has criticized a plan to create a new Top Level Domain (TLD) for mobile devices, warning that a new .MOBI domain will break device independence and separate the Web into two parts.

Berners-Lee used the spotlight of the World Wide Web 2004 Conference here to highlight the benefits of connectivity with the next phase of the Semantic Web. But he saved his most scathing comments for the .MOBI TLD proposal being championed by Nokia Corp. , Vodafone and Microsoft .

"I'm a little bit concerned about these new nine domains [under consideration by ICANN]. People have become used to using 'www' and '.com'. It's already defined as a flat space so why create a tree around it now?" Berners-Lee said. (The nine TLDs under ICANN consideration include .MOBI, .TEL, .TRAVEL, .XXX and .ASIA.)

He warned of "hidden costs" of introducing new TLDs, noting that when new domains were released by ICANN a few years ago, it led to a confusing scenario where businesses were registering URLs in every conceivable format. "They thought that they were protecting their brand and trademark but they were actually devaluing the .COM and .NET names," he argued.

"Don't get me wrong. There are some reasons for which I'd like to open new domain names. It would be great to open new domains but only where a social system or technical system was very different. If you want to open a domain where you are numbering things like telephones, that may be useful. If you make a commitment to the integrity of that piece of the Web, then that would be interesting.

"I'm not against Top Level Domains at all. I think that if you're going to set one up, the governing of it should be fair. It should be run by a non-profit and it should be technically sound. It should provide wider value to everyone and not just be set up to be a cash cow for people who want to sell you things."

Berners-Lee, who is a director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), said the driving force behind the .MOBI domain proposal was the establishment of new standards for mobile compatibility, the enforcement of new standards within the .MOBI domain and the creation of new markets for mobile devices.

He insisted that there were potential problems outweighing the advantages. He said a TLD that only works on wireless devices would separate the Web into two parts. He also wondered aloud what would happen if a user wanted to bookmark a Web page on the phone and revisit it on a laptop of a desktop PC.

In December, England's Buckingham Palace announced that Berners-Lee would be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his "services to the global development of the Internet" for helping to invent the Web.