At the end of the a four-day meeting in Yokohama, Japan, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted unanimously on Sunday to create new top-level domains for the internet.
Under the resolution, ICANN will appoint an unspecified number of registry operators by the end of 2000 to operate new top-level domains as alternatives to the current .com, .net and .org domains.
The board's failure to specify the number of new top-level domains it will create came under fire from some at the conference. Although ICANN interim-chairperson Esther Dyson said she would rather see approximately 10 new top-level domains created, other board members cautioned that number may be too high, given ICANN's staffing problems, which are in turn related to funding problems.
The application period will run for two months from 1 August, and then the public will have a two-week period in which to comment. The organisation plans to announce its selections by November 20 and then enter into final negotiations with those applicants, aiming to finish negotiations by December 31.
Applicants will be required to pay a non-refundable application fee of $US50,000, which will be used to fund the examination of application forms at both administrative and legal levels, said ICANN spokeswoman Pam Brewster.
The plan, which was at the top of the agenda for the final day's board meeting, received a mixed reception from attendees.
"Fifty thousand dollars is too much for what they are offering," said Cary Karp, a member of the International Council of Museums, which is hoping to operate a noncommercial .museum top-level domain. "It is at the high end of expectations, for a start, and I am not sure I can justify that much money."
Karp's concerns revolve around the failure to specify the number of domains to be issued and so his inability to rate his chances of being awarded a top-level domain.
"I need to talk to ICANN and find out realistically my chances of getting one. If I think I can get one, the museum community can raise $50,000 if it is needed, but I might just withhold from the process on principle."
For some potential registry operators, the money presents no problem because of the huge potential profits that could be reaped from operating a new domain, although competition to win a new top-level domain remains a risk.
In answer to this, a group of leading registrars including Register.com, Tucows.com and Melbourne IT are considering a joint application for the creation of a new commercial top-level domain, said Elana Broitman, director, policy and public affairs for Register.com. The cooperative will bid for the rights to operate the registry but not register domain names. This will be left up to domain name registrars, she said.
"We are thinking of creating a common registry, open to all registrars whether they are members of the consortium or not," Broitman said.