November 10, 2000 4:00 PM PST

ICANN staff opposes ".kids," ".xxx" domains

In expanding the pool of Internet addresses, the system's governing body should reject proposals for children and adult domains such as ".kids" and ".xxx" but embrace applications such as ".biz" and ".dot," a staff report released Friday recommends.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is scheduled to review applications for new domain suffixes at its board meeting Thursday in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

It could prove to be the toughest decision the board has had to make to date.

Competition for the expansion was fierce; 47 Web businesses applied for more than 100 new domains. The ICANN staff, however, has suggested that the board only take about 24 of those applications seriously.

"We saw a broad range of quality in the applications," said ICANN general counsel Louis Touton. "Some were less impressive, and others presented interesting ideas for things we haven't seen on the Internet yet."

Domains that the staff found promising included ".info," ".web," ".biz" and ".geo."

The ICANN staff suggested rejecting some domains because the companies making the proposals didn't have the technical know-how to run domain registries. Others, such as ".kids" and ".xxx," could prove too troublesome, the staff said.

The point of having a ".kids" domain is to provide a safe place for young children to surf. But ICANN staff members wondered who then would decide what material is safe and how registrars could be certain that visitors were actually children.

"Given the international reach of the Internet, the complexity of these definitional issues is compounded by many diverse cultures and a variety of community and individual views on the answers," the staff report says.

Matt Hayes of Burbank, Calif.-based Kids Domain was disappointed by the thumbs down from the staff.

"We feel like the staff certainly missed the point," said Hayes, a board member for the company. "Given the opportunity, a kids' domain name could be a safe place for kids to surf, not a risk."

Hayes said he hopes to convince the ICANN board at its meeting next week to brush aside the staff report and accept his company's application.

The Internet already has a limited number of suffixes, including the widely popular ".com" and lesser-known ".mil" and ".gov," as well as country codes such as ".us" for the United States.

Most of the country codes were established in the 1990s, but new domain suffixes have been approved since the 1980s.

The thinking behind the expansion is that as the Internet grows, catchy domain names will become scarce. To ease the logjam and create more competition among companies that sell and register domains for Web site owners, ICANN decided to expand the address system.

ICANN is a private organization chosen by the Clinton administration in 1998 to coordinate the network's address system. Since its inception, the group has endured heavy criticism and accusations of being secretive and out of touch with the Internet public.

In an effort to buck that reputation, ICANN kept every step in the process open and available for the public to view by posting applications on its Web site. The staff also offered a public comment section. Some 4,000 people weighed in with their thoughts on the applications.

If a new selection of domains is approved at the Thursday meeting, it is unlikely they will go into effect until spring 2001, said ICANN director Michael Roberts.

Although a decision about the new top-level domains hasn't been reached, ICANN already faces one lawsuit.

According to a letter posted on ICANN's Web site, Economic Solutions is seeking a restraining order from a Missouri federal court prohibiting ICANN from establishing a ".biz" or ".ebiz" domain address or any other combination that is similar to the country code of Belize, ".bz."

Lawyers for Economic Solutions say the company entered into a marketing agreement with Belize to use the Internet address and therefore owns the intellectual property rights to the name.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday morning, was met with a response from ICANN lawyers later that afternoon stating that Economic Solutions does not own the domain. Further, legal precedent shows that top-level domains don't earn copyright protections, according to a notice on ICANN's site.

Economic Solutions could not be reached for comment. ICANN declined to comment on the lawsuit.

 

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