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Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking the Internet was organised. Each country has its own IP address allocation and a unique top level domain (TLD) suffix, which helps you know immediately where the site you were about to visit was located. Initially, the domain of the site was attached to the country which was hosting it.

domain

 

All .com addresses were based in the United States, and co.uk Great Britain and com.au Australia, etc. This has changed over time and domains are open to be hosted virtually anywhere. This works fine for most intents and purposes but what about the other “special” TLDs we see so often? The remaining reserved suffix extensions include names like .net, .org, .xxx, .aero, .jobs, .mobi, .travel, which make a total of 22 TLD reservations.

 

Many of the well known TLDs such as .net, .org, .info have become open to anyone, while some such as .travel, .aero, .museum require applicants to prove they are a legitimate entity associated with the TLD. So as nearly every perceivable combination of open TLD has been taken, it comes as no surprise the registry who maintains the TLD structure has opened bids for new TLD applications,  of which, 307 additional TLD submissions have been generated by one company. 

 

New domains such as .plumber, .doctor and .media are up for auction and if successful, could find many new TLDs controlled by Donuts Inc. The firm has generated US $57 million dollars in investment for TLD auctions. More than any other single organisation, according to ICANN, the Los Angeles based non-profit registry that maintains the structure.  What this means to the consumer is that links to new sites such as johnhopkins.doctor could start to appear which may take you to an online gambling site or worse. It spells disaster, despite ICANN’s assurance the auction will provide greater consumer choice, and that it has the necessary safeguards in place to prevent companies with a history of abuse from controlling the new TLDs.

Donuts Inc is associated with well known junk site organisation Demand Media, which cybersquats on mis-spelt or similar sounding domain names as legitimate ones, re-directing users to sites other than the one they intended. Whether Donut’s intends to act responsibly remains to be seen, but given its association with Demand Media, this should sound an alarm. Unleashing so many TLDs to the highest bidder is likely to create confusion and generate chaos on the Internet, especially with so many TLDs controlled by a single entity, if Donut’s bids are successful.

The appropriate approach is to limit the number of TLDs a single applicant can apply for and then only release them one at a time to determine whether the applicants use of the suffix is for a genuine purpose and there are no complaints. Let us hope reason prevails and the folks at the TLD registry control the spread of the new names sensibly.

By Craig Sutherland







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