TECHNOLOGY: Dot time has come – Seven new domain names are approved

By now everyone’s vocabulary includes the word “dot-com” and perhaps even “dot-org.” Soon, you may be adding “dot-biz” or “dot-pro” to this list.

ICANN, a non-profit corporation responsible for administering the Internet name and address system, has added the following seven new “top level” Internet domains: .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro. These new names still must be approved by the Department of Commerce.

Top-level domain names

Domain names are the familiar, easy-to- remember names for computers on the Internet. They correspond to a series of numbers (called Internet Protocol numbers) that serve as routing addresses on the Internet. Domain names are used as a convenient way of locating information and reaching others on the Internet. Each name has two main parts, the top-level and the second-level. Here’s how they look together: HTTP://WWW.SECONDLEVEL.TOPLEVEL.

The original intent of the top-level domain name was to help find a type of entity named in the second-level. The names most people are familiar with (.com, .net, .org) are unrestricted, which allows anyone to apply for a name using that suffix. Their uses are the following:

.com–for companies or commercial enterprises.

.net–for network providers and their computers.

.org–an unrestricted miscellaneous category, mostly used by non-profit organizations.

There are also several other “restricted” top-level domains that are limited to specific situations. Even though the Internet is a world-wide network, some of the restricted domain names (e.g., .mil) are reserved for specific uses by the United States. These special U.S. names date back to the origins of the Internet as a U.S. military project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

The following is a list of the original restricted top-level domains:

.int–for international data basis and organizations established by international treaties.

.gov–for any kind of government agency or office, but which is now only for U.S. federal government agencies. State and local agencies are being registered under the country domain of .us.

.mil–for use only by the U.S. military.

.edu–originally intended for all educational institutions, but now limited to four-year colleges and universities.

In addition, there is one further category of domain names: country codes. These codes specifically identify the nation in which the domain name was registered. Some country code top-level domains have certain criteria for persons or entities that wish to register, such as residence requirements. Others have no restrictions.

New top-level domain names

The explosion of the Internet and the resulting scarcity of names have caused the unrestricted top-level domains to lose the distinctions they originally intended to create. The pressure for names has led ICCAN to approve seven new domain names. The names and purposes are as follows:

.aero–for services and companies dealing with air travel.

.biz–for businesses and corporations.

.coop–for non-profit cooperatives.

.info–for information-based services, such as newspapers or libraries.

.museum–for museums, archival institutions, and exhibitions.

.name–for registering by individuals.

.pro–for professions such as accountants, lawyers, and physicians.

These seven new names were chosen from a list of 47 “serious” proposals that the board of ICCAN had considered. ICCAN rejected a number of suggestions for top-level domains, including .health, .travel, .union, .web and .kids. Once the new top-level domains are fully integrated into the current system, ICCAN will again revisit the domain name issue.

The new names are not expected to be operational until at least the second quarter of 2001. To date, no companies have been accredited to register names in any of the new top-level domains. People 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 new names become operational.

The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a consumer alert warning about scam artists offering these services. The FTC has advised consumers to protect themselves by avoiding “any domain name pre-registration service that asks for up-front fees, guarantees particular top-level domain names or preferential treatment in the assignment of new top-level domain names.”

Michael Conlon is a partner at the Traverse City firm of Running, Wise & Ford PLC, where he practices in the areas of commercial transactions, litigation, e-commerce, bankruptcy and municipal law; BN