ICANN Decides To Expand Internet
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ICANN, the Internet's key oversight committee, held a conference in Paris the week of June 23, 2008 and voted to allow the influx of a seemingly limitless amount of new top level domains (TLDs). They also approved a proposal that would allow for public comment on the issue of web addresses in non-English languages. The ramifications of such changes are huge and we aim to address all of them in this article.
News like this will very likely transform the way people navigate the Internet in the future, so let's break the points down one by one. First of all, say good-bye to the strict rules governing TLDs, such as .com and .net. It is now possible for a business or individual to create and purchase a unique domain based on their name. “Like the United States in the 19th century, we are in the process of opening up new real estate, new land, and people will go out and claim parts of that land and use it for various reasons they have,” says Dr. Paul Twomey, chief executive of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).
The rules of the proposal state that just about any suffix 64 characters or less can be used. Individuals registering a domain will first have to demonstrate a “business plan and technical capacity.” They are not allowed to purchase registered brand names or words that are similar to existing domains, such as .nett, and they cannot steal the identity of a recognized community. Two parties trying to register the same domain will have three months to settle the issue, at which point the domain will be auctioned to the highest bidder.
The second major decision to come out of the conference allowed for public comment concerning addresses with non-Roman characters, such as Chinese and Arabic. Certain countries would be placed on the fast track to acquire the equivalent of their two-letter suffix in their native script. This would obviously be a major step toward making the Internet more global because it would provide the billions of people in developing countries who don't speak English the ability to surf the web in their own language and script.
For many years, the international community thumbed its nose at ICANN for being under contract with the U.S. But that contract expires in 2009 and this Paris conference is ICANN's move toward a more independent future. “The rapid introduction of domain names in non-Latin characters is becoming a moral imperative as well as a political necessity,” said Eric Besson, France's minister in charge of development of a digital economy, adding that it questions “the very credibility of ICANN as a truly global agency.”
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