Those looking to snatch up Web addresses containing new top-level domains may have to wait a while. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) -- a private global body charged with administering Internet domains -- is treading cautiously into the arena where increasingly the interests of companies, countries and consumers are colliding.
It seems the only thing anyone can agree on at the ICANN board meeting is that more top-level domains are needed.
The issues for ICANN to resolve in the coming months include:
- The title of the names themselves;
- How they should be administered; and
- Who should get them and when
A land grab is inevitable as soon as ICANN makes the domains available. At the meeting, one ICANN subgroup studying the issue on behalf of some trademark holders suggested that the board add six to 10 new generic domains to the existing seven (which include suffixes such as ".com" and ".net"), in order to test out the new process.
The process of adding new generic domains -- in the works for months -- is expected to be long and arduous as the group solicits more public input. Several methods of administering the names have been suggested, including having ICANN select the domains and let registrars apply for them, or letting new registrars submit proposals for new names and how they would use them.
ICANN has become increasingly more open and democratic in the past six months after coming under fire for back-door dealings. The group now plans to post reports on some of the new proposals related to generic top-level domains in the coming weeks. It will then take public comment before deciding how to proceed.
One of the biggest concerns of the business community is the issue of "cybersquatting". Corporations fear a rush to register famous names containing the new domains, forcing them to pay big bucks or spend hours in court to acquire them.
ICANN has instituted a dispute resolution procedure for dealing with famous domain names, but many businesses see it as a reactive approach and would like something that could save them time and money up front.
A separate group advising ICANN suggested that the global body adopt a sunshine law, which would give trademark owners the chance to come forward and register Web addresses containing their name before the domains are generally available. However, the approach has alarmed some consumer groups, and even companies themselves are struggling with how to deal with names such as "United" or "Delta", which aren't necessarily protected in the global Web world.
Meanwhile, proponents of non-profit agencies and individuals are asking ICANN to move rapidly in creating new top-level domains and to delegate as many as half of them to non-commercial entities trying to ensure their place alongside the big corporate interests in cyberspace.