Govt. Considers Commercial Use of .US Domain

With prime real estate dwindling in the .com domain space, the U.S.
Department of Commerce
next month will re-open discussions on expanding the
role of the .us top-level domain.

Commerce has called a public meeting for March 9 in Washington, D.C. to gather input on the future administration and management of the .us domain name space.

At present, .us addresses are used primarily by branches of state and local
governments, as well as schools and libraries. But there’s growing
sentiment that .us should be opened up to attract commercial users. Many
see it as a way to reduce conflicts between American companies and others
vying for the same domain name.

To attract non-government users, experts say .us addresses will need to be
pared down from the present locality-based system, which appends a city or
county and state to the URL. Expansion of the .us space, however, would
have to occur without disrupting current registrants who use the locality-
based hierarchy.

The U.S. Postal Service is quietly campaigning to take over as coordinator of the .us space from the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.

“The post office has a history as a trusted address manager, and we definitely have the infrastructure to handle the management of the .us domain space,” said USPS spokesperson Sue Brennan.

A USPS takeover of the .us country code is expected to meet strong
opposition from a number of fronts, including the Domain Name Rights Coalition, a group with the mission of
representing entrepreneurs, small businesses and individuals on the Internet.

“Handing governance of a new Internet space over to an old bureaucracy is a
mistake,” said Kathryn Kleiman, DNRC general counsel. “We should open it up
to competitive registrars, who are best suited to figure out how to make it
accessible to everyone.”

A Department of Commerce spokesperson said Thursday while the agency welcomes
input from the Postal Service, the USPS does not have an inside track on
coordinating the .us space.

As with the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains, a possible point of
serious contention is resolving disputes involving trademarks. In its
desire to make the .us space attractive to commercial sites, Kleiman of the
DNRC says the government needs to protect the interests of personal
websites and small businesses.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand for .us addresses. Trademark holders have
taken everything, so we really need a .us to protect the rest of us,” she
said.

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