INTERNET body to take up challenge to its naming authority

Thursday, May 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ An Internet oversight body opens quarterly meetings Friday in Stockholm, Sweden, where it will take up a challenge to its authority over approving new domain names.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers also plans to review procedures for resolving domain name disputes and continue work on phasing in new names such as ''.info'' later this year.

Since its selection by the U.S. government in 1998 to oversee online naming policies, ICANN officials watched quietly as disgruntled Internet users went for alternative domain names like dot-wine and dot-god.

The alternative movement got a boost in support when a well-funded Internet startup began offering 20 unsanctioned suffixes in March.

ICANN's president, M. Stuart Lynn, broke his organization's silence Monday when he urged the Internet community to ignore ``illusory short-term advantages'' in favor of long-term stability.

The startup,, responded a day later by accusing ICANN of moving too slowly in introducing new suffixes. ICANN's approach of building consensus, the company said, ``inherently cannot serve the diverse and large groups that have varying and even diametrically opposed stakes.''

ICANN has added the issue to its growing agenda for the weekend. No policy decisions are expected immediately.

The alternative names can be viewed as breakaway republics on the Internet. They run on master directories independent of the 13 sanctioned by ICANN and the U.S. government. Only a small percentage of Internet users can reach sites using these names because they require changes in computer network settings.

ICANN officials had considered the alternatives no more than a nuisance. But as support for them grow, so does the potential for conflict.

Consider dot-biz, one of the seven new suffixes coming online later this year. Thousands of Internet users have claimed names through an alternative dot-biz. That could mean two different sites with the same name.

Supporters of the alternatives are frustrated that new suffixes haven't appeared since the 1980s. To them, even the seven on the way aren't enough.

ICANN plans future rounds of names, but it wants to first evaluate how smoothly ''.biz,'' ''.info'' ''.name,'' ''.museum,'' ''.pro,'' ''.aero'' and ''.coop'' appear.

The ICANN board on Monday may create a task force to set up limits for such an evaluation. The board will also begin considering the future of dot-org, including the possibility of restricting it to nonprofit organizations.

ICANN will also let the public comment on arbitration procedures established in 1999 to handle disputes over domain names that include trademarks. Critics consider the procedures tilted in favor of businesses and trademark holders.

``There's a general sense that, with a little more than a year of experience, now is the time to poke around to see what's working,'' said Andrew McLaughlin, ICANN's chief policy officer.

An ICANN task force is expected to report on technical challenges related to introducing non-English domain names.

Another task force will review the future of board directors representing the general Internet community. ICANN held elections for only five of nine seats last year.