Internet DNS plan polished up for January 98 launch

A new Internet domain name system could launch by January 15 next year. The date has emerged in the wake of a meeting of the international committee promoting it the new plan, aimed at polishing up the scheme's technical framework. The Generic Top-Level Domain Memorandum of Understanding (gTLD-MoU), calls for seven new generic top-level domains to complement existing names such as .com, .gov and .org. The committe has already approved nine new registrars and is now focusing on 'day one issues'. Like what happpens when everyone wants to register 'worldwide.web' ...

A new Internet domain name system could launch by January 15 next year. The date has emerged in the wake of a meeting of the international committee promoting it the new plan, aimed at polishing up the plan's technical framework.

The committee, dubbed the interim Policy Oversight Committee (iPOC), has already nine approved registrars that have agreed to the committee's plan to revamp the domain name system (DNS), according to iPOC members. Financial services company Dun & Bradstreet Information Services is serving as outside consultant in the registrar approval process, and will be approving other registrars in the coming months, according to iPOC.

"We tried to steer clear of contentious policy issues in the meeting and focus on the CORE [Council of Registrars] database ... though some policy issues had to be discussed in order for us to start to come up with guidelines for the database," says Antony Van Couvering, president of NetNames USA Inc. of New York, which organised the meeting.

IPOC's plan, called the Generic Top-Level Domain Memorandum of Understanding (gTLD-MoU), calls for seven new generic top-level domains to complement existing names such as .com, .gov and .org.

The meeting, which took placelast week in New York, gathered qualified registrars under the gTLD-MoU, vendors, government representatives and other parties interested in the shared database/repository design and technology that will provide the framework for the new DNS.

At the meeting iPOC appointed six members to come up this month with a definitive request for proposal (RFP), which will provide a blueprint of the required database setup for interested vendors, said iPOC members.

The CORE database essentially will store all the registered domain names, allow access so that registrars can see which names are taken, and integrate a notification system so that registrars are certain that names they sent to the database have been accepted, says Van Couvering.

Some policy issues, focusing on accessibility and fairness of the system, were discussed here this week, says Van Couvering.

"We had to deal with Day One issues," Van Couvering says, explaining that iPOC is bracing for a rush on the part of users to register very generic names making use of the new domains. "People are going to want worldwide.web, for example."

To help deal with this, registrars' requests for registration of names to the CORE database probably will have a time stamp, so that registrars with more powerful computers who may be physically closer to the database won't have an advantage over those in more remote locations, whose requests might take a few seconds longer to hit the database, says Van Couvering. IPOC is also considering implementing a request queuing system that would go into effect a few weeks before the implementation date, so that registrars won't be flooded with identical, almost simultaneous requests.

IPOC members also say they have been in discussions with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva this week, to search for ways to insulate registrars from litigation relating to trademark issues.

The iPOC proposal calls for WIPO to administer trademark disputes via arbitration, as an alternative to litigation, according to iPOC President David Maher. WIPO will be able to take requests for arbitration via email, avoiding the need for people undergoing arbitration to make a trip to Geneva, Maher says.

"We're trying to build an effective, low-priced alternative to courtroom litigation," said Maher.

IPOC is also working with the WIPO to set up guidelines to protect trademark holders from people who want use established company names or trademarks in domain names.

Original guidelines called for a trademark to be registered in 35 countries before it could get domain name protection, "but people pointed out that some famous trademarks aren't registered in a lot of different countries," says Maher.

IPOC and the WIPO are working on more flexible guidelines, which will accept different ways to show that a well-known trademark should be protected by the DNS. For example, Maher says, a company could show that a trademark has been in use for many years, or bring up previous trademark litigation, or even show how much advertising and marketing has been done to promote a trademark.

Though the iPOC plan remains a target of criticism among various factions in the Internet community, it appears to be gaining acceptance over other plans, and has met with tentative approval by members of the WIPO in Geneva.

IPOC guidelines for the new DNS are posted at http://www.gtld-mou.org/.

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