Network Solutions Wants 2 More Top-Level Domains

WASHINGTON (04/20/2000) - Network Solutions Inc. said today that it supports the creation of two new generic top-level Internet domains to relieve the crush of domain name registrations in the overcrowded .com, .net and .org top-level domains.

NSI sent a position paper to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity charged with technical administration of the Internet. The paper recommends that one new domain, ".shop," be created and opened to all registrants, and that a second, "chartered" domain, ".banc," be created specifically for use by banks and other financial institutions.

Furthermore, it calls for a new central registry for each of the two new domains, suggesting that the ".shop" registry be located in Europe and collectively managed by the dozens of ICANN-accredited domain name registrars, including NSI.

For ".banc," NSI recommends that a "core group" of global banking industry representatives be appointed as registry gatekeepers. "NSI believes that the competitive marketplace will benefit from the new [top-level domains]," wrote Roger Cochetti, a company executive. He urged ICANN to designate two new "proof of concept" top-level domains right away to avoid "months or even years spent in further analysis, debate about abstract criteria, and lengthy, complex and contentious procedures and negotiations."

Cochetti said NSI "would be willing to provide support and back-office services on a contractual basis" to the two new registries. Currently, the company operates the lucrative central registry for .com, .net and .org. Under the terms of its contract with ICANN and the Commerce Department, NSI will control that registry for as many as four more years before presumably selling it and plowing the profits back into its registrar operations. NSI enjoyed a fantastic government-granted monopoly in .com, .net and .org registrations until 1998, when ICANN introduced competition into the process. But NSI is still the 800-pound gorilla in the space, with more 10 million names registered, far more than its nearest competitors.

NSI recommends that no single registrar be allowed to control the new registries in the way that it controls the existing registry for .com, .net and .org. NSI's position paper steals thunder from ICANN's Domain Names Supporting Organization, which has been squabbling for months about what recommendations to make to ICANN regarding creation of new generic top-level domains. At ICANN's March board meeting in Cairo, Egypt, the DNSO was unable to deliver a coherent recommendation as to how to proceed.

So ICANN granted the DNSO an extension until April 20, which apparently has proved fruitless. Two DNSO working groups have been wrestling with the issue but can't reach a consensus. In a conference call yesterday, the DNSO Names Council approved an ambiguous resolution that called on ICANN to establish a policy for introducing new generic top-level domains. Ironically, ICANN has been looking to the DNSO for guidance on such a policy for months.

But the DNSO has produced no concrete recommendations on new domains or new registries, other than pointing to working group position papers that recommend that four types of new domains be considered: open domains, like NSI's ".shop"; specialized domains, like ".banc"; noncommercial domains, such as ".union"; and personal domains, such as ".per." There are no technical obstacles to quickly instituting new generic top-level domains. A key hurdle is opposition from the intellectual property lobby, which is highly concerned about protecting trademarked names.

Some observers say trademark holders lucky enough to own ".com" domain names are also worried about dilution of what has proven, at least until last week, to be a profitable brand label. NSI's paper recommends that ICANN's existing domain name dispute-resolution policy be used to arbitrate multiple claims in the new domains and that a "sunrise period" be enacted to allow "certain trademark holders" the right to register their marks in the new domains. ICANN said it would take up the DNSO resolution at its next board meeting, scheduled for July in Yokohama, Japan.

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