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Internet

New.net finds ally for domain effort

The domain registry plans to announce a new partner, Europe's Tiscali, in its long-shot challenge to the official domain system.

New.net on Thursday plans to announce a new partner in its long-shot challenge to the official domain system, adding Europe's Tiscali to a growing list of Internet service providers that support its unconventional Web address suffixes.

The deal will allow some 7.5 million Tiscali customers to register and navigate the Web using technology created by Idealab-backed New.net.

David Hernand, New.net's chief executive, said in a statement that the deal will give European Web publishers a chance to use more relevant addresses such .gmbh--the German equivalent of .com--which have not yet been sanctioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body charged with overseeing the domain name system.

"The partnership with Tiscali is continued evidence of the growing popularity for New.net domain names in the international arena," Hernand said.

ICANN recently expanded the pool of so-called top-level domains to include suffixes such as .biz, .info and .aero. But the agency has been criticized over its handling of the process, which some see as slow, arbitrary and unnecessarily complex.

The expansion was inspired partly by a rush on domain names during the height of the dot-com boom. Bidding for marquee addresses peaked in late 1999 when eCompanies paid some $7.5 million for business.com. With the contraction of the Internet economy, however, much of the rationale for expansion has fallen by the wayside, as fewer start-ups now vie for eye-catching real estate.

Country codes such as .uk have long existed with the ICANN-sponsored domains, and several companies are pushing alternative address systems such as AlterNic and RealNames. But consumer habits have been hard to sway, and .com remains the most recognizable ZIP code on the Net.

That hasn't dampened the hopes of New.net, however, which claims that nearly 100 million Web surfers will have access to its addresses through ISP partnerships following Thursday's Tiscali deal. Other partners include EarthLink, United Online's Juno and NetZero services, and Prodigy Communications.