International Groups Want Off Internet Name Expansion


The United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and 26 other international organizations are pressing the keepers of the Internet to prevent addresses like ".un" or ".imf" from being taken by cybersquatters in an upcoming expansion of domain names.

The groups made the request in a letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. The letter was undated although a source said it was sent on Tuesday.

ICANN, a nonprofit corporation, has said that the explosion of the Internet has led to a shortage of possibilities for website names, requiring ICANN to expand options by allowing companies to use their company name or a popular brand as a top level domain, for example ".brand."

That worries the intergovernmental organizations.

"The IGO (intergovernmental organization) community concerns relate to the increased potential for the misleading registration and use of IGO names and acronyms in the domain name system under ICANN's significant expansion plans," lawyers for the organizations wrote in the letter.

Law enforcers including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have expressed concern that the expansion could lead to a related expansion of fraud.

ICANN critics say the organization fails to keep an accurate registry of URLs, pointing out registrations to Disney characters with invalid addresses and telephone numbers.

Under the new program, it will cost $185,000 to register a top-level domain, and ownership will involve running an Internet registry. A top-level domain refers to the word to the right of the period in a URL, such as "com" or "org."

ICANN will publicize who is applying for a top-level domain, thus eliminating proxies, and run criminal background checks on applicants, said Brad White, a spokesman for ICANN.

"What we did was take the current space, the current domain name space and try to improve upon it. Is it perfect? No," he said.

But Dan Jaffe, a top lobbyist for the Association of National Advertisers, called those additional measures inadequate.

Companies will be forced either to spend $185,000 to buy each version of their name or brand as a top-level domain, or keep an eagle eye on applications to shoot down any potential cybersquatting, he said.

"The defensive spending will be enormous," he said, estimating that it will be in the billions.

ICANN once reported to the Commerce Department but that relationship ended in 2009. (Reporting by Diane Bartz, editing by Matthew Lewis)