ICANN's Plan for Name-Calling

SAN FRANCISCO (06/15/2000) - The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that manages the infrastructure for Internet addresses, will announce a decision by Nov. 1 on the first group of new top-level domains to join the ranks of ".com," ".net" and ".org." The domain registrar will sign contracts assigning domain names with the new suffixes by Dec. 1.

ICANN proposed the six-month schedule for rolling out the new domains in a staff paper released Tuesday. The paper solicits public comment on 74 questions about plans to add new generic top-level domain names for the first time since the late 1980s. Suggestions have included ".travel, ".banc," ".museum," ".union," and ".xxx" or ".sex."

ICANN's call for public comment comes as its 18 board members prepare to converge July 15 to 16 in Yokohama, Japan, for what could be a historic meeting. During the meeting, the board likely will vote on whether to create several new generic top-level domains, said Mike Roberts, president and chief executive officer of ICANN.

"Unless there is some enormous wave of opposition, the board would go ahead and adopt policy," says Roberts, who noted that the idea of adding new domain names has been kicked around for about five years.

However, the embattled ICANN board, which has been criticized for being muddled in bureaucracy, is not slated to approve specific suffixes in Japan. Rather, the July vote will be the first step required toward seeking proposals from potential registries for new names. ICANN will issue a formal call on Aug. 1 for names and registries. Proposals from those seeking domain names with the new suffixes will be due by Oct. 1, and contracts with registries will be signed by Dec. 1.

How long it will take for new addresses to debut on the Internet will depend on the number of new registries, said Roberts, who declined to estimate a time.

Currently, there are 15 million domain names, using 244 country codes, as well as seven other generic suffixes, such as the ubiquitous ".com," whose proliferation has largely driven the call for new suffixes.

ICANN's Domain Name Supporting Organization has been deadlocked over the issue of new suffixes for months, with business and trademark interests that oppose creating more domains battling noncommercial organizations and domain-name registrars that want more choices.

At the July meeting in Yokohama, the ICANN board also will address intellectual-property protection during the initial launch of new top-level domains.

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