Issues Linger After Top-Level Domain Expansion

Although seven new TLDs (top-level domains) have won approval for usage on the Web next year, lingering intellectual property and international designation issues still must be addressed, experts said.

The board of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) sifted through 47 applicants to select .info for general use, .biz for businesses, .name for individuals, .pro for professionals, .museum for museums, .coop for business cooperatives, and .aero for the aviation industry.

In the short term, the increased options may complicate the process of finding Internet sites and choosing domain names, said Audrey Apfel, vice president and research director at Gartner Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

"It's not automatically clearer where you need to stake out turf, particularly if you're a commercial enterprise," Apfel said. "[New TLDs] don't automatically resolve all the intellectual property issues involved with the Internet. There's still no way to determine a rightful owner for a name."

Some experts, however, question the impact new domain names will have on the corporate world.

"I think people vastly overrate the importance of the [Web site] name over running the company well," said Esther Dyson, who stepped down as chair of ICANN's board after the unveiling of TLDs last week.

And yet overall, Apfel said, the ICANN board met its mission to broaden the rapidly shrinking existing pool of domain names -- including .com, .net, and .org -- with new names tailored toward diversity, international representation, and business designations.

Tackling the dearth of non-English domain names is an issue that needs intervention, Apfel said. "There's a lot of opportunity in the non-English world. As Americans we tend to forget about that."

Domain name registrar VeriSign Inc. Global Registry Services has already begun to accept international domain names in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean for the .com, .net, and .org domains -- despite opposition from the Internet society to hold off such a move until a proposed standard is developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Among the domain names rejected by ICANN in this first round include .tel for telephone, as well as .kids and .xxx to signal Web content for children and adults, respectively.

Another looming issue is potential confusion between new TLDs and old domain names that are rendered similarly, such as www.yankee.pro and www.yankee.net. But that is a small price to pay to halt the current "morphing" of business brand names by companies trying to enter the crunched dot-com domain name field, said Vince Sampson, vice-president of public affairs for the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) in Washington.

"For an emerging company, [registering before new TLDs] might be problematic," Sampson said. "Is that going to mean there is going to be a proliferation of confusing names? Yes, but I think they're going to help more than they're going to hurt."

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