RealTime IT News

Consortium of Registrars Seeks to Operate New TLDs

With the passing of the midnight deadline Monday for applications to operate new top level domains (TLDs), a group of 19 leading registrars formed a consortium -- Afilias LLC -- to push three proposals: .web, .info and .site. The only problem? Other companies have made proposals for the same TLDs, and in the case of .web, a company called Image Online Design Inc. has been registering domains with that extension since 1996, acquiring more than 18,000 .web registrations.

Names are an integral part of the Internet game, and a contentious one that in 1998 led to the formation of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), whose primary duty is to maintain the stability of the Domain Name System (DNS). During its meeting in Yokohama, Japan in July, ICANN agreed to allow registrars to apply to operate new top level domains (TLDs).

By Monday's deadline, ICANN received 47 applications for more than 150 specific TLD strings.

"We are pleased with the large number of diverse applications submitted from organizations throughout the world," said Mike Roberts, ICANN president and chief executive officer.

ICANN will open a two-week public comment period on the new TLD proposals on Oct. 9 and is expected to announce its selections for the operators of new TLDs by Nov. 20. The target date for completion of contract negotiations with those selected is Dec. 31. Once contract negotiations are completed, new TLDs should be operational by the first or second quarter of 2001.

Afilias' proposals may hold a lot of water with ICANN. One of ICANN's long-term goals is promoting growth of the Internet and competition among registrars. Afilias counts among its members the world's largest registrars, including Network Solutions Inc. -- which held a government-sanctioned monopoly over the .com, .net and .org domains until the formation of ICANN -- and its arch-rival, Register.com. Other members include 1stDomain.net, Corporate Domains Inc., Domain Bank Inc., DomainInfo AB, DomainPeople Inc., Domain Registration Services, Enter-Price Multimedia AG, Internet Council of Registrars, interQ Inc., NameSecure.com Inc., Netnames International Ltd., Polar Software Ltd., Procurement Services International Inc., Schlund + Partner AG, Sitename, Speednames Inc. and Tucows Inc. Together the companies have global reach, and, according to John Kane, head of the Afilias marketing task force, Afilias will use an open business model that will allow other ICANN-accredited registrars to join the consortium. Even without joining, ICANN-accredited registrars would be able to sell addresses in any domain Afilias operates.

"If Afilias is given the ability to operate these new top level domains, we will work to expand the Internet," Kane said. Also, Kane said any TLD Afilias is granted authority to operate will be generic like .com or .net, not restricted like .edu (which is only for the use of educational institutions). "There are no restrictions on who would apply. It could be an individual or a business."

Kane added, "We are pioneering a new channel in cyberspace to foster international communication and commerce. There is no reason to limit access to what is truly the world's most unifying vehicle. Our mission is to quickly eliminate the digital divide and promote a global community."

Other registrars have proposed special-purpose TLDs (like .edu). For instance, a number of groups have proposed .kids for kid-oriented sites and .sex or .xxx for adult-oriented sites. A sampling of others include. real (for real estate), .union (for trade unions), and .travel (for travel agencies).

So why is Afilias pursuing .web, .info and .site?

"Our first choice would be .web," Kane explained. "In our research, .web came up as the most popular choice, followed quickly b