ICANN narrows new domain options

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has zeroed in on 10 new top-level domains, pending a vote of its board of directors.

ICANN has released its analysis of the 191 top-level domains that interested parties have proposed in recent weeks. The report identifies 10 top-level domains that are the strongest contenders, including .biz, .web and .nom.

Eliminated from the process were proposals that would segregate Web content for children and adults with top-level domains including .kids and .xxx. ICANN also recommended against proposals for restricted commercial domains such as .fin for financial institutions, .travel for air transport companies and pro for professionals.

In a surprise move, ICANN eliminated proposals for telephony-related domains, including .tel and .one, in deference to a request from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). ICANN also ruled out a proposal from Novell for a .dir domain for directory services information, citing concerns that Novell's proposal did not consider directory systems from competing vendors.

ICANN's staff emphasised that its board of directors has the authority to overrule the staff's recommendations and choose whatever domains it prefers. The report was created by five ICANN staff members and eight outside advisors.

"We followed the board's instructions in reviewing these proposals, but ultimately they have the authority to take action on this," says ICANN president Mike Roberts.

In early October, ICANN received 44 valid proposals from companies and consortia seeking to become registries of new top-level domains. Each proposal was accompanied by a $US50,000 application fee. Many of the proposals offered multiple top-level domains, resulting in a pool of 191 options from which ICANN can choose.

ICANN's staff reviewed the technical, business and financial strength of the proposals, and the results of that review were posted on ICANN's Web site.

ICANN narrowed the 14 proposals to seven finalists, all proposing .web and .biz. This means from a local perspective, Australia's Melbourne IT, under its Neustar alliance, is looking in good shape with both the .biz and .web proposals being considered favourably by ICANN staff. However, the company is staying tight lipped about its prospects until it can be sure its bid has been decided upon.

"While negotiations are taking place, we are not making any comment until the decisions are final," said a Melbourne IT spokesperson.

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