Superficial smiles hid underlying tensions in the runup to the first meeting in Australia this week of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The friction relates to delays in launching four new top level domains as commercial entities to relieve the pressure on the overcrowded traditional domains .com and .org.
Companies that have won rights to the new top level domains are still bogged down over details with ICANN, the ultimate custodian of all Web addresses.
Barbed hints emerged at a preliminary conference held in Sydney last week by the Australian Internet Industry Association that the companies feel ICANN is indulging in bureaucratic overkill.
Elana Broitman, director of policy for New York based registrar Registry.com, told the conference talks with ICANN were "very tough".
The negotiations should result in an agreement that will precipitate a launch later this year, she said.
"But ICANN doesn't need to tie new entrants to so many specifics that they can't offer true competiton."
Registry.com and a UK registry will operate the new .pro domain as a joint venture. They intend to aim it initially at doctors, lawyers and accountants.
Meanwhile, a failed bidder for new domain names has decided to start offering its own ICANN-independent domains and is emerging as a wild card on the scene.
New.net Inc, owned by California company IdeaLab, has begun selling domain names based on 20 new extensions, including .kids, .travel and .duh.
Not sanctioned by ICANN, New.net's domains won't be part of the ICANN-maintained domain name infrastructure.
Instead, address requests will be routed to New.net's own servers by special settings used by partnering ISPs or by browser plug-ins. Reportedly, three ISPs with 16 million subscribers have signed up with New.net as partners.
Broitman used New.net as an example of the dangers generated by delays in commissioning the new group of ICANN-backed domains and suggested ICANN use "a carrot, not a stick" to deal with the issue.
"The domains sanctioned by ICANN need to move forward at a quicker pace and that would quench a lot of the appetite for new top level domains."
Without faster action, New.net and possibly others will move to exploit the market need, she said.
US Dept of Commerce internet policy advisor and ICANN committee member Sharon Rose, another conference speaker, reacted cautiously to questions about New.net.
"The introduction of a system like this raises a lot of technical questions," she said.
An obvious one would be the potential for conflict and confusion among web addresses supported by different systems without a common domain authority.
However "depending on whether it (New.net) takes off, it might be quite interesting to see the results."
Courtesy The Australian Industry Standard: http://www.thestandard.com.au