Mar 102001
 
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ICANN has been debating for what seems like forever on whether or not to create new Top Level Domains (TLDs) and what those new TLDs should be. Finally, on November 12, 2000 they decided to implement seven new TLDs: .biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop, and .museum. The first of these new TLDs may finally be available within the next few months. However, there are a few problems which must first be overcome.

Unsponsored vs. Sponsored

The new domains are grouped into two large categories: unsponsored and sponsored. According to ICANN:

“Generally speaking, an “unsponsored” TLD operates under policies established by the global Internet community directly through the ICANN process, while a “sponsored” TLD is a specialized TLD that has a sponsoring organization representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD. The sponsoring organization thus carries out delegated policy-formulation responsibilities over many matters concerning the TLD.”
– from the ICANN Melbourne Meeting Topic: New TLD Agreements Posted: 26 February 2001 available at http://www.icann.org/melbourne/new-tld-agreements-topic.htm

In other words, the unsponsored TLDs will be handled like “standard” or generic TLDs, while the sponsored TLDs will be handled in a manner similar to the “non-standard” or country-code TLDs.

Negotiations for the unsponsored TLDs are “nearing completion” while those for sponsored TLDs “are still in a formative stage”. Thus, the unsponsored TLDs will likely be the the first to be implemented and the sponsored TLDs may still have a wait of several years.

Unsponsored TLDs: .biz, .info, .name, and .pro
Sponsored TLDs: .aero, .coop, and .museum

What They “Mean”

Actually, like all gTLDs, they don’t really mean anything. However, the seven new domain names are intended for use by the following:

.aero – air-transport industry
.biz – businesses
.coop – non-profit cooperatives
.info – unrestricted use
.museum – museums
.name – individual registrations
.pro – accountants, lawyers, physicians

Pre-Registration and Reservation

Many domain registrars (as well as other companies) have begun offering pre-registration and/or reservation of your domain name at these new TLDs for a fee. This is a scam! Do not do it! No company can promise that you will receive your domain name at any of these TLDs no matter how much money you pay them. Period.

If your registrar is offering a service similar to this for free then there is no harm involved in signing up. However, if they are charging a fee (I’ve seen some as high as $100.00), then I not only would not sign-up, but I’d look into finding another registrar.

Quotes from ICANN’s New TLD FAQ: (available at http://www.icann.org/tlds/)

“No companies have been accredited yet to register names in any of the new TLDs. Registration procedures have not yet been formalized, and there is no
guarantee that any particular organization will be authorized to take registrations for any particular TLD.”

“No one has been authorized to “pre-register” domain names in the new TLDs. Persons who attempt to “pre-register” such domain names do so at their own risk and with no assurance that they will receive the pre-registered names once the TLDs become operational.”

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a Consumer Alert about these practices that can be read at:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/domainalrt.htm

Obstacles

A number of obstacles remain in the path of these new TLDs. None will become available until all of these hurdles have been cleared:

1)The standards for registering these new TLDs are still being negotiated. The unsponsored TLDs are at about 85% agreement while the sponsored TLDs are more like 40% agreement. Negotiations for the unsponsored TLDs should be completed very soon.

2)There is at least one lawsuit being filed against ICANN to prevent their implementation of some of these new domains. A number of “alternative” DNS services (such as domainisland.com and new.net) have been created over the years (these will be the subject of Part 6 in this series) and they currently use both the .name and .info TLDs. North Pole of America Inc. claims to hold a trademark on both of these TLDs as well.

While not well known, the existence of sites using these alternative DNS systems will create serious confusion should ICANN approve these domain names and the legal issues could remain unresolved for several more years.

3)Since no one is currently set up to accept registrations for these new TLDs and ICANN insists (rightly so) on making the new registrations available to as wide a market as possible in as fair a manner as possible, there must be some sort of lead time between final approval and implementation. I imagine there will be a minimum of 90 days between final approval (which could come as soon as this week for the unsponsored TLDs) and actually opening them to registration.

Conclusions

So, what does this all mean? At the moment, not much. Yes, the rumors of these new TLDs are true…sort of. However, no other new TLDs are being considered at this time, so if you’re waiting for .xxx or .kids, you’ve got an incredibly long wait ahead of you. Of course, if you really can’t wait, then you can always try one of the alternative DNS systems. Don’t know what those are? Then hang on for part 6 in this series: Rebel Domains (Alternative TLDs)

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