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Any Thoughts on Dot-US?

The US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration has put out another request for comments (RFC) on how best to manage and administer the .US domain space.

The new RFC follows a previous NTIA effort two years ago to kindle interest in the US ccTLD. But that initiative became derailed by controversy when the US Postal Service stepped forward with a proposal to take over administration of .US domain registrations.

At present, an estimated 10,000 sites use the .US country code, most of them local governments in the US. But the NTIA wants to see that number greatly expanded, and is willing to change some rules to make it happen, according to Becky Burr, associate administrator with NTIA.

"We think it could be a very attractive domain to a lot of folks. It's our sense that there's something special about .US. It's not popular in its current configuration, so we're looking for something that could allow that space to be expanded," said Burr.

Poor marketing and the ponderous hierarchical organization of .US domains have held them back, according to Burr, even at a time when companies and individuals are snapping up .CC, .WS, .TV and other ccTLDs.

Administration of the .US domain is currently handled by the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California, while nearly 8,000 individuals and companies act as administrators for delegated subdomains based on localities.

Many of them, such as Harbour Light Productions, a Web design and hosting firm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at present receive no payment for handling .US registrations. And according to Josh Cyr, new business developer for Harbour, the sometimes thankless task can be bewildering to everyone involved.

"It's a confusing process as to who you go to and what the requirements are, even for us. We do it only because we inherited it from an ISP we acquired," said Cyr.

Domain industry watchers hope that turning over the administration of the US ccTLD to a private entity with marketing savvy will goose the popularity of .US. Flattening its hierarchy might also drive adoption, so that businesses or individuals could register, for example, companyname.us, versus the multi-level names required today, companyname.locality.state.US.

With prime .com space vanishing, the dowdy .US domain space may become more attractive to registrants and potential registrars alike. But at least one big player has backed away from contention: the US Postal Service has reportedly decided not to pursue a role as administrator.

The NTIA's deadline for submitting comments on the draft statement of work is October 6, 2000.