ICANN, the non-profit group that regulates domain names, wants to vastly expand the number of “top level domain names” beyond the 21 that currently exist, such as .com, .net, and .mobi. But the proposal, which is expected to go into effect next year, is running into lots of opposition. ICANN says that by adding top-level domains it will “promote competition in the domain-name marketplace” and prompt “innovation.” At the first public meeting held on the initiative, however, the response was largely negative, at least according to a report on InternetNews.com. Several lawyers said the plan could put a big burden on groups such as sports leagues that might feel the need to purchase all the domains related to their trademarks in all of the new top-level domains. A lawyer for Turner Broadcasting also said it could create new opportunities for sites to try to steal other sites’ identities, leading to the possibility of fake news stories that seemed real.
The vocal opposition follows written criticism ICANN has received from several groups including the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Telecommunications Information Agency, which have said that the new domains will likely create confusion among consumers and also force trademark owners to defensively purchase domain names. The DOJ and the NTIA both want the initiative delayed until ICANN completes a study to determine some of its economic implications, according to a report on the ICANN website. ICANN doesn’t seem inclined to bend. It says it has already spent $13 million on designing the program and lists a number of initiatives it is undertaking to respond to the feedback.
Under a draft plan, anybody will be able to apply for a top level domain name, although they will have to fork over a $185,000 application fee to ICANN first. ICANN will then evaluate applicants based on whether they are financially and technically able to run a registry. Once an application is accepted based on those criteria, ICANN will invite third parties to post any objections they may have, before ultimately deciding whether or not to give the entity the go ahead.
By Joseph Tartakoff