WASHINGTON ICANN, an independent body responsible for organizing the Internet, plans to press ahead with plans to expand the number of possible website addresses despite criticism from industry and concerns from some law enforcement groups.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which decides who gets to manage .com, .net and other domains to the right of the period in a URL, plans to begin accepting applications next week for a hugely expanded number of Web domain options.
This has infuriated and worried corporations, which already troll the web looking for trademark violations and sometimes buy web addresses they don't plan to use to prevent them from falling into the hands of cybersquatters.
In a letter Tuesday, Lawrence Strickling, administrator of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, urged ICANN to take steps to minimize the need for these defensive registrations.
"In meetings we have held with industry over the past weeks, we have learned that there is tremendous concern about the specifics of the program that may lead to a number of unintended and unforeseen consequences and could jeopardize its success," Strickling wrote on Tuesday.
ICANN said on Wednesday that it would review Strickling's recommendations. "We appreciate Assistant Secretary Strickling's comments and suggestions," said Steve Crocker, chair of ICANN's board in an emailed statement.
Each top level domain would cost $185,000. Applications will be accepted beginning on January 12, although it is not known when the first new registries will be up and running.
"Of course, we're going to go slow," said a source close to ICANN.
That said, ICANN has no plans to delay rollout of the top level domain expansion, a goal that is to allow more innovation in website addresses and to open the space to the non-Latin alphabets. It has pledged a quick take-down for trademark violators under the new system.
Strickling also urged ICANN to do a better job of identifying who controls particular websites, with the goal of being able to aid law enforcement if the sites are used for criminal activity.
But Dan Jaffe, Executive Vice President of Government Relations for the Association of National Advertisers, worried that companies would be forced to spend millions not only to monitor their trademarks in top level domains but in the proliferating number of websites.
"The problem is the history and the history has been that ICANN has not been responsive," said Jaffe.
Jim Lewis, a tech expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the high cost alone of applying for a top level domain -- $185,000 -- would go a long way toward deterring bad registry owners.
"Slow (implementation) is probably better," he added. "Their (companies') concern is brand dilution. It's a reasonable concern."
(Editing by Bernard Orr; Reporting By Diane Bartz)
Corrects Dan Jaffe's title in paragraph 11.