ICANN Puts New Domain Names on Hold

MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is putting the launch of new top-level domains on hold until next year, bowing to pressure from some of the world's biggest companies.

During a summit in Mexico City last week, ICANN, an Internet policy-making group, heard from those in favor of gTLDs such as ".bzh," ".gal," ".eus" and ".ker" to represent the Breton, Galician, Basque and Cornish peoples, as well as non-nation domains such as ".shop," ".music" or even ".google" and city domains such as ".london."

An ICANN press release said those in favor of city gTLDs called them "the oldest, strongest and most powerful brands mankind has ever created".

"Do you want that the city mayors at the next meeting are begging up here, on knees, for the city TLD?" asked Dirk Krischenowski, CEO of dotBERLIN.

The Mexico City summit included the release of a study, commissioned by ICANN, from University of Chicago Economics Professor Dennis Carlton.

"The likely effect of ICANN's proposal is to increase output, lower price and increase innovation," said Carlton. "I conclude that ICANN's proposed framework for introducing new TLDs is likely to improve consumer welfare by facilitating entry and creating new competition."

The concern among corporate giants is paying for and registering their brands with as many as 100 new domain names to prevent cybersquatting and legal battles.

Firms such as Yahoo, Microsoft, and Time Warner claim the start of new gTLDs "would vastly increase the costs associated with defensive registrations." Those companies also argue there is "no evidence to suggest a compelling demand for the expansion."

The ICANN board voted Friday to stall the launch of new domain names until as late as February 2010, UK newspaper The Register reports.

"The board has clearly heard and believes strongly that the concerns of trademark holders must be addressed before this process is opened for applications," said ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

Thrush said a new Implementation Recommendation Team will be established to address and find solutions in areas of trademark protection and other issues. An initial report is due April 24, with a final report due May 24 for consideration as ICANN's next global meeting in Sydney, Australia June 21-26.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with global participants, dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. The organization has offices in Marina Del Rey, Calif., Washington, D.C. and Brussels, Belgium.

For more about the group and its work, visit ICANN.org.

In related news, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore would like to see a ".eco" domain pushed through as a top-live domain name.

Gore and his environmental charity group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, have partnered with Dot Eco LLC to establish what would be considered a domain name synonymous with all things "green" and promote environmental initiatives and awareness, PC Magazine reports.

With the recent ICANN decision to put a hold a new global tLDs, .eco will have to join that 2010 waiting list, it appears.