ICANN to vote on relaxing rules for top-level domain names

If approved, companies could buy generic top-level domain names that end in whatever they choose

ICANN, the nonprofit group that manages the Internet domain name system, will vote at its meeting in Paris on Thursday on whether to open up the rules for top-level domain names.

If ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, relaxes those rules, then companies will be able to buy generic top-level domain names ending in whatever they want, according to a report in the BBC News. That means, for example, that eBay Inc. could add its company name to the end of its URL and become eBay.ebay and Microsoft Corp. could become Microsoft.microsoft.

Currently, the endings of top-level domain names are limited to .com, .net, .org, as well as individual country codes such as .ca for Canada or .uk for the United Kingdom.

ICANN CEO Paul Twomey told BBC News that relaxing the rules would be the biggest change to the way the Internet works in decades.

"The impact of this will be different in different parts of the world. But it will allow groups, communities and business to express their identities online," Twomey told the BBC. "Like the United States in the 19th century, we are in the process of opening up new real estate, new land. And people will go out and claim parts of that land and use it for various reasons they have. It's a massive increase in the geography of the real estate of the Internet."

ICANN could not be reached for comment.

According to the report, when asked about the possibility of an .xxx domain name, Twomey said the new system would be "open to anyone."

Last year, ICANN voted to reject the .xxx sponsored top-level domain, saying if it were approved, the organization would be "forced to assume an ongoing management and oversight role regarding Internet content, which is inconsistent with its technical mandate."

Twomey told the BBC News that ICANN hadn't decided on an application fee for the new top-level domains, but he said it would be at least several thousand dollars.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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