April 27, 1998 5:00 AM PDT

Food domain found "obscene"

Confusion over domain names and profanity is mushrooming.

"I am trying to register the domain name 'shitakemushrooms.com,'" complained Netizen Jeff Gold in an email message to CNET's NEWS.COM. "It is available, but the InterNIC is refusing to register it because it contains four letters they consider obscene."

Gold attached a note from Network Solutions, the company that provides InterNIC registration services, denying the application for "shitakemushrooms.com." The note reads, in part, "Network Solutions has a right founded in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to refuse to register, and thereby publish, on the Internet registry of domain names words that it deems to be inappropriate."

So what's so inappropriate about a little gourmet fungus?

"We do have an automated screening system," Network Solutions spokesperson Nancy Huddleston explained. "Because it's an automated system, it catches things like 'expresshitech.com.' But all a person has to do in a case like this is call our customer service number and the name will be registered."

Network Solutions' automated system screens for the so-called Network Seven, referring to the seven words the major television networks do not permit on the air.

The Network Solutions screening system introduces yet another apparent contradiction: While "shitakemushrooms.com" and "expresshitech" didn't make the automated cut, "shit.com" is already registered by GlobeComm and is listed as "sold" by its BestDomains domain name sales division. The URL leads to the BestDomains home page.

Huddleston said that domain name was registered before the 1996 installation of the automated registration system. She said the name will be denied when it comes up for renewal.

The InterNIC record for the name was created on September 1, 1995, and was last updated February 5, 1998.

Another apparent contradiction is that the Network Seven leaves out a host of words that many Netizens would consider obscene, including the Network Seven's foreign language equivalents.

Spelling enthusiasts point out that Mr. Gold could have avoided tangling with the Network Solutions automated screening system if he had spelled his domain name differently.

"There are two conventions for writing long vowels in Japanese," noted Martin Hoffman, director of San Francisco-based Global Village Translators and Interpreters. "The old style of Romanizing long vowels would be to put a bar over the letter. But more recently the convention has been to double the letter," as in shiitake. (For the record, it is pronounced shee-tah-kay.)

"He could have saved himself a lot of trouble by looking it up in the dictionary," Hoffman added. "Or by taking a hike down to his local supermarket."

As of posting time for this story, "shiitakemushrooms.com" was still available from Network Solutions.

 

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