If you want to start a Web site, you basically have one choice: a name you pick followed by .com ("dot com"). Several other "last names"—called top-level domains (TLDs)—exist, such as .org for NPOs or .edu for schools. But if you are an individual or business you're stuck with .com . The Internet, like Henry Ford, offers you a car in any color as long as it's black.
But the Internet community may soon be offering a range of new names,
allowing individuals and entities more options. A group of companies
and individuals involved in the Internet have put together a
"generic top-level domain memorandum of understanding"
(gTLD-MoU). It proposes seven new TLDs:
.firm for businesses or firms.
.shop for businesses offering goods for purchase.
.web for entities involved in Web-related activities.
.arts for entities emphasizing cultural and entertainment
.rec for recreation-related entities.
.info for information service providers.
- .nom for individuals.
These new top-level domains will be available from a variety of authorized companies around the world, called registrars. Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), a publicly traded U.S. corporation, has been the exclusive source of .com domains.
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What it all means
Some of the new registrars already are accepting "preregistered" names. For example, someone may have signed up as "www.CPA.firm." However, given the number of registrars, there is no assurance another registrar won't be first with a requested name when the new system is up and running. Nothing is yet in place for resolving such conflicts, and there are no guarantees that this system is final. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce, is proceeding with a parallel, if not identical, plan to open up the Internet. Despite months of online excitement over impending changes, new TLDs may not appear until later this spring.
Meanwhile, NSI still is registering .com and a few other established TLDs and has even made its online registration process simpler. An NSI spokeswoman told the Journal that NSI will continue to be a player in the growth of the Internet and hopes to be a registrar for any new TLDs as well.
There are a number of online resources the curious can go to for more information about the changes:
www.gtld-mou.org . This site includes a FAQ list explaining the details of the proposed new arrangement as well as a list of the various groups and committees involved. Especially useful is a list of all the proposed new registrars in the United States and abroad.
www.netsol.com . The NSI pages include press releases describing its positions on Internet changes.
www.worldnic.com . NSI's online registration site allows individuals and companies to establish their own domain names.
www.ntia.doc.gov . The NTIA has
posted a lengthy paper, A Proposal to Improve Technical Management
of Internet Names and Addresses .