New group formed for unofficial Internet TLD owners

A group of Internet top-level domain (TLD) holders have formed a nonprofit association to prevent what they fear will become a splintered Internet domain naming system.

The new group, the Top Level Domain Association Inc. (TLDA), announced Wednesday that it will begin accepting membership applications Saturday from an estimated 200 operators of some 500 TLDs around the world.

The most well-known TLDs are those recognized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), including .com, .net, .edu and .org. But many others exist outside the authority of ICANN. Those domains, however, are only viewable on the Internet if special Domain Name System (DNS) configuration settings have been added to users’ computers.

Leah Gallegos, a board member of the new group and president of AtlanticRoot Network Inc. in St. Simons Island, Ga., said the new association is being created to recognize existing unofficial TLD holders who are being ignored by ICANN and to foster cooperation to avoid continued TLD naming conflicts.

The problem, says Gallegos, is that some of ICANN’s pending TLD designations, such as .biz, are already being used as TLDs outside the official ICANN system. What that will do is create havoc and domain name “collisions” as Internet users won’t be able to find the sites they are seeking due to duplicate TLDs in use across the Internet, she said.

ICANN and the operators of the approximately 500 unofficial TLDs will be invited to join the new group, Gallegos said, as it “works toward a stable, collision-free name space” online.

“We don’t know what the response will be,” she said.

AtlanticRoot manages five TLDs not recognized by ICANN. They are .biz, .online, .etc, .ngo (nongovernmental organization) and .npo (nonprofit organization).

In March, Pasadena, Calif.-based, a start-up domain name registry, began operations. It launched 20 new TLDs outside of ICANN’s existing system (see story). Eighteen of the 20 collided with TLDs that are already in use elsewhere, Gallegos said, fueling concerns about such overlaps.

Meanwhile, talks are continuing today between the U.S. Commerce Department, ICANN and Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign Inc., over the management of the existing .com TLD and related issues (see story).

VeriSign proposed changes two months ago in the contract it has with Marina del Ray, Calif.-based ICANN to administer the registries for the .com, .org and .net TLDs.

VeriSign and ICANN approved a series of proposed changes to the original contracts, but the Commerce Department must give final approval if the changes are to be enacted. The amended contracts would allow VeriSign to continue to administer the .com and .net registries for the next five years, while giving up the .org registry next year.