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Home » Hacking News » Web naming agency struggles with growing pains

Web naming agency struggles with growing pains

by ivy on June 5th, 2001 STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- The U.S.-based agency that oversees Internet names worldwide was criticized Sunday for moving too slowly in approving new addresses and in facilitating the use of non-English domain names as demand grows among Web surfers from California to China.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which was selected by the U.S. government in 1998 to regulate the system of domain names, took up the subjects at its quarterly meeting in Stockholm this weekend as it faces growth in unsanctioned suffixes like ".wine" and ".god."

Until recently, ICANN officials had considered such suffixes no more than a nuisance since only a small percentage of Internet users can reach sites using these names because they require changes in computer network settings.

But delegates to the four-day meeting, which ends Monday, lined up behind the microphone at a public comment session with questions about a report by ICANN's president supporting accredited domain names as the only policy.

"We have to recognize that there is diversity," said board member Karl Auerbach, who is often critical of the California-based agency. "There need not be a single name space that everybody is forced to adhere to."

No policy decisions were expected during the meeting and ICANN president M. Stuart Lynn stressed that the paper was intended only to initiate discussion.But his view was clear as he underlined concerns that alternate names could create confusion.

"People could find when they try to select a Web site, they don't know where they'll end up," Lynn said earlier in an interview. "Our concern is stability, so we're not going to do things to jeopardize that."

ICANN has little enforcement power, but many critics said it could slow down other naming systems by moving faster in approving its own.

Last November, the agency approved seven new suffixes, the first since the 1980s. The new suffixes include, ".name" for individuals, ".pro" for professionals, ".aero" for aviation, ".coop" for business cooperatives and ".museum" for museums, ".biz" for businesses and ".info" for any individual, group or company.

The agency has said it wants to work out the kinks from the introduction of the seven before approving more.

"Everybody's been waiting for years and years," said Nigel Roberts, chief executive of the company that operates the ".gg" domain for the British Channel Islands. "ICANN needs to take the brakes off a little and let market forces decide."

ICANN also faced an internal challenge as a group of operators of country-specific Internet domain names voted to withdraw from an ICANN policy-setting group that they claim favors traditional suffixes like ".com" and ".net" and ".org" at their expense.

The decision, which was subject to ratification, called for the establishment of a separate supporting organization that would provide more decision-making power.

About 600 participants from more than 100 countries also heard a report on technical challenges related to introducing the use of addresses with non-Latin characters as the Internet grows in popularity in Asia and other countries where English is not widely spoken.

The report pointed to problems ranging from the difficulty of entering foreign characters to questions about whether translation of a trademark could be a legal violation.

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