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ICANN Gives OK To .Biz, .Info

Registries and registrars are getting ready for the big summer push of the .biz and .info domains, which was given final accreditation approval by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Tuesday.

ICANN's great experiment, the introduction of seven "new" global Top Level Domains (TLDs), is supposed to pave the way for introduction of a host of new TLDs in the future. Also expected to receive final accreditation by the Department of Commerce-sponsored organization are .aero, .coop, .museum, .name and .pro.

Vint Cerf, chairman of the ICANN board of directors, said Tuesday's announcement is the first step in a long journey towards competitiveness in the domain name industry.

"This is a momentous step forward in the continuing evolution of the Internet's domain name system," Cerf said. "However, it is just one step among many in a long process of providing consumers with the benefits of competition through a variety of domain name options and services."

If you own a computer and have connection to the Internet, your email box has already been inundated by the many registrars who will be happy to pre-register your domain name of choice in the .biz and .info space.

Ellen Rony, co-author of the book, "The Domain Name Handbook," said consumers should be on the lookout for these companies, which aren't actually pre-registering the individual but putting them on a waiting list that might or might not get them the domain they requested.

"Just because they signed up with a registrar doesn't mean they got the domain," Rony said. "It just means the registrar has your request along with a lot of others who might or might not get the domain name they're looking for."

One such registrar, VH International, sent out millions of emails (people less polite would say spam) promoting their pre-registration engine, which guarantees a person their domain name of choice. "Over 250,000 names have already been queued into our list and the good names are going fast," their email claims.

The company's Web site, NewRegistryExtensions.com was out of commission at press time, and officials would not return phone calls asking for pre-registration information.

Alldomains.com, a registrar out of Pleasant Hills, Calif., is conducting, for now, low-profile pre-registration for interested .biz and.info customers.

Jason Ricketts, corporate account manager for Alldomains.com, said his company is pre-registering domain names right now, but doesn't plan to start a promotional blitz until a registration date has been announced -- a plan that could include a mass email strategy.

"As we get closer to a registration date, you can certainly expect press and promotion from our end," Ricketts said. "We don't typically (send out mass emails), that's something that would have to be discussed with our marketing and other departments to find out how to best do this. I wouldn't rule out mass emails, but it's something we'll have to discuss."

Ronald Berg, who has been chief executive officer of Afilias all of eight days, looks forward to the challenges and opportunities the .info domain will present. Key to the success of his registry's .info domain name is its success outside the U.S., where many regard .com as a particularly unpleasant Americanism.

"The Web is international in scope, information is international in scope," said . "Right now, you have organizations and companies that are limited because there isn't a global domain name. We think there's a solid opportunity outside the U.S. However, not many people realize what a fertile ground this is."

It's going to be a tough sell for Berg and the sales team at Afilias, a company that's a coalition of 18 ICANN-accredited registrars. Outside the U.S., ICANN has very little popular support, since the organization has patently refused to recognize the alternative domain root servers in the Open Root Server Confederation (ORSC), which also has its own .biz TLD registry, among others.

Protecting intellectual property for the two TLDs is quite different.

.info owner Afilias is hoping to avoid the majority of intellectual property and domain name disputes with its Sunrise registration process, which starts in late June. With it, trademark holders get first rights to their names. In the case of multiple eligible trademarks, the submitted domains will be randomized and processed for registration. To lessen the likelihood of cybersquatters, Afilias officials stipulated the trademark had to be official before Oct. 2, 2000.

NeuStar, owners of the .biz registry, have elected to protect intellectual property by holding an IP claim service May 21. By paying the $90 (per registered trademark) fee, NeuStar gives the holder information on the people who have registered their domain name. According to the registry, the IP claim service is useful to warnoff "cybersquatters and others unaware of claims against a name before they complete the domain name application.

After intellectual property has been taken care of, both registries will hold a round-robin registration affair for the rest of the domain name space. Instead of a race to find out who's the fastest to get their registration in queu, Afilias and NeuStar will pick a registrar at random to determine who registers first.

Officials hope to level the playing field using the round robin system, but Rony said sometimes the tried and true methods work best.

"Call me conservative, but I like the idea of the first registrar getting to pick the domains first."