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Google's chances to obtain dotless 'http://search' domain shrink

Dotless Internet domains are likely to confuse users, ICANN-affiliated committees say

By Loek Essers
July 15, 2013 12:13 PM ET

IDG News Service - Google's chances of obtaining the "http://search" domain name are shrinking after several committees affiliated with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently warned that dotless domain names could be harmful to the Internet.

Over the weekend, the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF) issued the latest advisory about dotless domains, saying, among other things, that application protocols may have trouble processing them. Earlier in the week, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) issued its own warning about dotless domain names.

Google has shown interest in the dotless "http://search" domain in a letter sent to the ICANN board in April, in which it requested permission to expand its application for ".search" to run that generic top-level domain (gTLD) as a dotless domain. The letter was sent by the Charleston Road Registry, which Google owns.

"Google intends to operate a redirect service on the 'dotless' .search domain (http://search/) that, combined with a simple technical standard will allow a consistent query interface across firms that provide search functionality, and will enable users to easily conduct searches with firms that provide the search functionality that they designate as their preference," Google said in the letter.

However, if domains like this were to be used, they would not work as intended by Top Level Domain (TLD) operators in the vast majority of cases, the IAB said in an advisory published last week in which it strongly discouraged the use of these domain types.

In a standard system setup as recommended by the IETF, dotless domain names could be used as shortcuts to hosts within a local administration, the IAB said. They could be used, for example, for an intranet zone.

Users do not expect to be referred to the Internet when they enter a dotless domain, the IAB added.

Because dotless domains will not behave consistently, they are potentially confusing for Internet users and can erode the stability of the global DNS, the IAB said.

They also cause security risks. "By attempting to change expected behavior, dotless domains introduce potential security vulnerabilities. These include causing traffic intended for local services to be directed onto the global Internet (and vice-versa), which can enable a number of attacks, including theft of credentials and cookies, cross-site scripting attacks, etc. As a result, the deployment of dotless domains has the potential to cause significant harm to the security of the Internet," according to the IAB.

Therefore, dotless domains should not be used at all. "In summary, the IAB believes that the current IETF recommendations against the use of dotless domains are important to the continued viability and success of the Internet, and strongly recommends that the Internet community strictly adhere to them," it said.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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