ICANN proposes greater top-level domain name flexibility

By Liz Tay on Jun 25, 2008 6:49 AM
Filed under Communications

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is proposing to relax the rules on top-level domain names in a move that could drastically change the Internet.

If approved, new registration rules could allow companies to register their brands as generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), and offer more personalisation options to individuals with Web sites.

Since the introduction of.com, .net and .org as gTLDs in 1998, the range of available gTLDs has slowly grown to include 21 domains such as .aero, .asia, and .tel.

According to discussions this week at the 32nd ICANN Meeting in Paris, the new regulations will allow any public or private organisation from anywhere in the world to register any string of letters as a gTLD, which could result in hundreds of new gTLDs registered this year.

New gTLDs will be evaluated via a Web-based application process, during which applicants must demonstrate organisational, operational, technical and financial capability.

By implementing new gTLDs, ICANN expects to be supporting creativity, innovation, consumer choice, and competition in the domain name space.

The international domain name regulator also has proposed to allow new domain names to be written in international scripts, which it expects to create a more globally and culturally inclusive Internet.

As the new regulations essentially allow any string of letters to be registered as a domain, the move could finally open the door to the controversial .xxx domain.

According to Peter Coroneos, Chief Executive of the Internet Industry Association in Australia, a relaxation of gTLD registration rules could overcome branding and trademark disputes, such as cyber squatting, that have been common in the U.S. and Europe.

Coroneos used the example of the National Australia Bank which was initially unable to obtain its preferred domain name, resulting in its Web site being registered as national.com.au. The National Australia Bank has since obtained the nab.com.au domain name.

“It [more relaxed gTLD rules] seems to me to be a natural progression from what we have now,” Coroneos told iTnews. “To some degree, it could overcome historical problems with trademarks and domain names.”

“Greater branded use [of gTLDs] shouldn’t carry with it any significant dangers, provided that registration policies are clear and wouldn’t undermine any legitimate trademarks,” he said.

To avoid the emergence of phishing sites and fraud, Coroneos said that the registration of gTLDs should be accompanied by anti-avoidance measures and require a high degree of accountability.

The implementation of the new rules will be decided by vote this week.
 
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