Start-up Offers Top Level Domains
In what can only be called a gutsy move, Pasadena, Calif.-based startup New.net Inc., recently released its first 20 new top-level domains (TLDs), stirring up the potential to create mass confusion in the Internet marketplace that assigns web addresses.
The recently created domain name registry, launched in May, 2000 by Internet incubator idealab!, claims that it is only giving the marketplace what it wants. "We believe that there is a tremendous unmet demand for sensible, meaningful names beyond the current naming," says a New.net spokesman, referring to what some people in the industry consider the bogged down process of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
The first 20 TLDs being released by New.net are, .chat, .club, .family, .free, .game, .gmbh, .hola, .inc, .kids, .law, .ltd, .med, .mp3, .shop, .soc, .sport, .tech, .travel, .video, and .xxx. The TLDs became available on March 5 and the process for purchasing a domain name simply entails completing an online form at the New.net website (www.new.net) and paying a $25 per year fee, according to the company. Domain names using the initial set of extensions are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
New.net isn't the first company to offer TLDs outside of ICANN, the non-profit corporation that was formed to assume responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system management and root server system management functions. However, New.net is perceived by industry players to be better positioned to succeed where others have failed.
"New.net has some major backers and we're hearing some interesting prognosis and speculation about the marketplace," says Brian O'Shaughnessy, spokesman for VeriSign Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of domain name services. However, he adds, "It's all still on the drawing board."
What New.net offers the marketplace that other aspiring domain name registrars working outside the purview of ICANN don't is a new technology approach and the support of major ISPs such as EarthLink, Excite@Home, and NetZero, another idealab! outfit.
"We're the only company to have introduced both a browser and network-based solution that enables consumers to access all of the new domain names while still working within the existing ICANN-sanctioned Internet systems," says the New.net spokesman. He also notes that the company's initial base of exclusive ISP partnerships will strengthen access and use of the new domains by businesses and consumers.
Frank Dzubeck, president of Communication Network Architects Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy, believes that the New.net action raises some serious issues. "The key to fluidity of the Internet is the domain name system," he says. ICANN, despite it's monopolistic structure, is a well-financed organization whose objective is to operate openly on an international basis. "Other companies can try to create domain names outside of ICANN but users will have to consider how well the company is financed and how long it will be around," says Dzubeck.
There are, reportedly, 150 registrars accredited by ICANN to sell domain names, 22.8 million domain registrations using .com, .org and .net and 12 million domain registrations in each country code TLD. Users of the ICANN sanctioned TLDs use a single route structure, or the routing structure of the Internet as most people today understand it to be.
Lynn Haber writes on business and information technology from Norwell, Ma.