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Glitches expected as new domains come online

The Washington Post/ SMH | July 15, 2013
A dramatic expansion in the number of possible web addresses - by adding more than 1000 new generic top-level domains such as ''.buy,'' ''.casino'' and ''.gay'' could cause widespread disruption to internet operations, say some industry officials.

''US officials who oversee web security issues through the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration expressed confidence in the management of the domain program, issuing a statement saying ''We would expect these issues to be discussed and resolved within the ICANN multistakeholder process.''

Companies that have applied for and are granted control of the new domains will be allowed to sell licensing rights for the resulting new web addresses, typically for annual fees, with a portion going to fund ICANN, which is based in Southern California. Applications cost $US185,000 plus annual maintenance fees. New domain owners need to maintain their registry infrastructure around hte clock and many have partnered with registry services to guarantee the stability of the new addresses.

Donuts Inc., an investment group that made the largest number of applications, with 307, said Verisign's criticism of the process for launching the new domains was a result of self-interest. The company controls the popular ''.com'' and ''.net'' domains - giving it a degree of market power that could be diluted if new ones gain widespread acceptance.

''ICANN was created in large part to break Verisign's monopoly over domain names,'' said Donuts spokesman Mason Cole in a statement. ''Now that the organisation is on the verge of achieving that goal, it's not surprising that Verisign is uncomfortable.

''Verisign officials say they support the program for adding new domains but believe the rollout should proceed more cautiously than currently planned.The stakes are high in an era when a large and growing share of the world's economic activity happens over the internet. Even traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses use online systems to communicate, manage inventories and interact with customers. Many also count on the security of networked computer systems to protect lucrative intellectual property and other valuable strategic information.

Moss, the ICANN security chief, acknowledged that some internal corporate systems will malfunction as new domains are created, and he said it would be the responsibility of company officials to fix the problems.

''We want everything to work, and we're going to try to make everything work, but we can't control everybody's networks on the planet,'' he said.

Moss said domains likely to cause problems are a ''really, really small number.''

But critics have said it is irresponsible for ICANN to approve new domains before it knows the extent of the problems they would create and has plans in place to fix them. The cost of repairing systems - or the loss of security - would be borne by private companies that in most cases have little to gain from the hundreds of new internet domains.

In addition to expressing such security concerns, corporate leaders have been complaining that the sheer number of new domains will cause a sharp rise in fraud and abuse as criminals buy up web addresses intended to deceive consumers. Already, many companies are attempting to defend against this by acquiring many different web addresses that include their corporate names. But that will become far more difficult, they say, with hundreds of new domains, including ''.corp,'' ''.inc'' and ''.sucks.''

 

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