September 29, 2000 3:55 PM PDT

ICANN may consider domain name for children

San Diego father Page Howe is looking to build a children's playground on the Net by applying for a new Internet address system that ends with ".kids."

Howe, 37, has until Monday night to submit his request to members of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the governing body that is accepting proposals for expanding the pool of domain names beyond ".com," ".net" and ".org."

"There is a lot of content on the Web that is not appropriate for kids," said Howe, a father of four?--two infants and two teenagers. "This way, children will have a place to go that is safe and entertaining."

It is also a way for advertisers to target a hard-sought segment of the population. But Kids Domain, Howe's company, would control the ".kids" domain name database, monitor what crosses the screens of their young audience, and kick off any Web site or advertiser that takes advantage of its viewers.

Howe has already spent $500,000 for the address system application and set aside an additional $10 million for Kids Domain. Whether his idea will become a reality would be in the hands of ICANN's 19-member board.

ICANN had for years been considering expanding the domain name suffixes, but it wasn't until July that the board unanimously passed a resolution to allow more addresses on the network. While some special two-letter country codes, such as ".us" for the United States, have been established since the mid-1990s, no other domain suffixes have been approved since 1980.

Adding new suffixes to the registry allows Web surfers to more easily search for specific topics. Travel agencies, for example, could use ".travel," or children's sites could use Howe's ".kids."

ICANN was chosen in 1998 to take over the Internet naming system. Until then, Network Solutions (NSI) had held a monopoly on the addresses. Now there are about 60 companies that register domain names, an important first step to getting an identity on the Internet.

But NSI, acquired by VeriSign in March, still controls the registry, a database where all the names ending with ".com," ".net" and ".org" are stored.

Expanding the Net address book would also open the registry to competition, said Andrew McLaughlin, ICANN?s chief policy officer.

The tricky part will be to make sure the domain name system doesn?t get flooded with litigation over the new suffixes. In other words, trademark protections would have to apply no matter what the address reads, McLaughlin said.

Monday?s deadline for applications will be followed by a two-week comment period. The applications will eventually be posted to the ICANN Web site for review.

As for Howe, he said he hopes to create ".kids" as a place for children to surf that would be free of smut and other undesirable information. Before joining his domain, companies would have to sign a contract agreeing to keep their sites clean. If they break the contract, they lose their Web address.

"This would solve some of the decency issues on the Internet," he said. "If we get rejected this time around, we'll just keep trying until ICANN thinks it's a good idea."

 

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