Sites Unseen?

Alternate domain names concern businesses

Some business leaders are growing increasingly concerned about the emergence of alternate Internet naming systems, saying they may lead to consumer confusion and possible destabilization of the Internet.

Concern over the introduction of alternate top-level domains, such as dot-shop and dot-web, offered by and other companies operating alternate Internet root servers, dominated the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers quarterly meeting last week.

Until the May launch of, ICANN, the group picked by the U.S. government to manage the Internets Domain Name System, had generally ignored alternate naming systems.

But is well-funded and has the potential to reach many more Internet users than other unsanctioned root servers have. points Internet users to its domain names through agreements with Internet service providers such as EarthLink, or through software that can be installed on users machines.

"Were concerned . . . potential customers might not reach our sites," said Rick Lane, the U.S. Chamber of Commerces director of e-commerce and Internet technology.

Several business groups said they want to be sure that when consumers look for their Web sites, they will not be directed to a different site with the same Internet address on one of the alternate systems.

Some observers said ICANN encouraged the growth of alternative naming systems by moving too slowly to introduce new generic Internet top-level domain names. It has been more than a decade since the last gTLDs, such as dot-com and dot-org, were introduced. ICANN approved seven new gTLDs in November, but has only approved contracts with the operators of two: dot-biz and dot-info.

Steve Chadima, New.nets chief marketing officer, said if ICANN had chosen more names and implemented them faster, "there would be no reason for us to exist." He also dismissed critics who say could harm the Internet, saying, "The only thing were threatening is the monopoly ICANN has over the process."

ICANN officials and others said ICANN can do little to stop alternatives, other than stress the importance of one authoritative network.

Still, ICANN President M. Stuart Lynn and others have put companies that operate alternative naming systems on notice that when ICANN selects a second round of new Internet domain names, it will not be forced into giving them the gTLDs they currently operate.

"There should be clear notice to those out there on alternate roots: If they choose a top-level domain because they think they can move faster than we, that wont prevent us from choosing it," said ICANN board member Jonathan Cohen. "Otherwise, its open season."