RealTime IT News

ICANN Clears Way for New Sponsored TLDs

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to add "a limited number" of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) into the Web address pool but early indications are the sponsored domains will be created only for specific community groups and won't be freely available to the public.

ICANN, a non-profit group that controls Web address suffixes, said the new TLDs could go live as early as next year but any organization that proposes a new domain must represent a well-defined community associated with the TLD. Sponsored domains are meant for specific community groups, unlike the more popular public TLDs like .COM, .NET or .ORG.

ICANN has already approved sponsored domains like .MUSEUM and .COOP. There was no word from ICANN Monday on how many new sponsored TLDs would be added but many believe new domain alternatives like .TRAVEL, .NEWS or .HEALTH could be up for grabs.

"The sponsored TLDs were recommended because they can be added more smoothly, raise the least concern, and can easily fill demonstrable community needs," ICANN said in a statement following an open meeting in Amsterdam, adding that the new domains would come from a "carefully defined and limited community; so there are fewer concerns about trademark infringement and cyber squatting."

It would be the second time since the mid 1980s that new suffixes would be added. In November 2000, seven new TLDs were approved by ICANN. At that time, there were proposals for 191 new suffix additions. Those new additions -- .BIZ, .INFO, .NAME, .PRO, .MUSEUM, .AERO and .COOP -- effectively opened up competition in the domain name registration space, which for many years was monopolized by Network Solutions, the VeriSign-owned company which runs the registry of dot-com addresses.

According to reports out of Amsterdam, there is plenty of interest in the new sponsored TLDs. During a public forum on Saturday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) argued for the addition of .TRAVEL while there were strong lobbies for .HEALTH and .MOBILE from interested groups. A group of Web firms even put up a proposal for .III for individuals, giving indications the final decision could be embroiled in controversy.

Separately, ICANN announced the approval of the proposed transition article for reform. It said the transition plan includes the formation of the new Generic Names Supporting Organization (GMSO) replace the existing Domain Names Supporting Organization (DNSO). The new GNSO will be restructured and follow new procedures designed to streamline and speed up the work of policy development, ICANN said.

The organization also set up an Interim At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) to begin immediately on establishing an vehicle for user and individual input to ICANN's much-maligned decision-making process. ICANN also discontinued the existing Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO) and established a Technical Liaison Group (TLG) to channel expert technical advice to the ICANN Board from the principal Internet standards-setting bodies.