The decision came after six grueling hours of picking through dozens of proposals from online businesses hoping to cash in on the new domain name gold rush.
The agency, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, chose ".biz," ".aero," ".name," ".coop" and ".info" to add to the pool of Net names. The others are ".pro" for professional Web sites and ".museum."
"There are seven very happy groups and a lot of disappointed ones," said Paul Hazen, chief executive of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association, the company that got approval for ".coop." "It is clear there are going to be more opportunities for domain name expansions in the future. People need to stay positive about the process."
The new additions provide an alternative to the ubiquitous ".com" for individuals and companies trying to establish an identity online. At the same time, they introduce fresh competition to the Net name business by allowing other organizations, besides Network Solutions, to manage a domain directory.
Herndon, Va.-based Network Solutions once held an exclusive government contract to register domain names and control the database where the addresses are stored. Two years ago, ICANN opened competition in the registry market. But NSI, which was bought by VeriSign in March for some $20 billion, continues to control the database charging registrars $6 per domain name.
The 19-member ICANN board on Thursday plowed through the applications, discussing the merits of each before an audience of about 900.
The first to get a nod was ".biz."
Though a number of businesses submitted the ".biz" proposal, ICANN chair Esther Dyson noted that Delaware-based domain registry JVTeam was "a strong candidate" and seemed "like the clearest established player," according to interviews based on an online transcription of the board meeting.
But not all of the 47 applicants got such glowing treatment from Dyson and the board.
When reviewing a submission by Afilias, a consortium of registrars including the powerful NSI, Dyson said it gave her a "queasy feeling" because it seemed to fly in the face of everything the organization had been trying to achieve--primarily, competition in the Net name market.
The plan to expand the pool of Internet addresses was first developed in July at the last ICANN meeting held in Yokohama, Japan. Even then concerns about how the agency would handle such a task ran high. In particular, Dyson told reporters she worried that too many questions
|And the winners are...|
|Following are the seven top-level domains approved by ICANN and the organizations behind them.|
|.aero||SITA: The Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques, an airline telecommunications company based in Belgium.|
|.biz||JVTeam: A newly formed domain name registry based in Delaware. NeuStar, a Delaware communications services business, and Melbourne IT, an Australian domain name registration service, are parent companies.|
|.coop||NCBA: The National Cooperative Business Association, based in Washington, D.C., represents some 750,000 cooperatives globally.|
|.info||Afilias: A consortium of 19 major domain name registrars including VeriSign, which acquired Network Solutions; Register.com; and Tucows.|
|.name||Global Name Registry: Organized under the laws of England and Wales. The domain suffix will be used for personal Web sites and email addresses.|
|.museum||MDMA: The Museum Domain Management Association supports accredited museums worldwide. It is a newly formed nonprofit organization. Founding members are the International Counsel of Museums and the J. Paul Getty Trust.|
|.pro||RegistryPro: Incorporated in Ireland earlier this year, it is owned by Register.com and Virtual Internet, which offers branding and trademark protection services. The company is based in Dublin, Ireland. The domain suffix will be used for professionals such as doctors and lawyers.|
Her worries are not unfounded. A rash of domain name disputes between established corporations trying to protect their marks and emerging businesses wanting catchy Internet addresses to drive traffic have clogged the courts for years.
ICANN has already batted off one lawsuit brought by a St. Louis, Mo., company that tried to stop the adoption of the ".biz" domain. The company, Economic Solutions, said the address was confusingly similar to ".bz," a country code for Belize for which they have the marketing rights.
Intellectual property attorneys agree with Dyson's assessment.
"If there are more domains, there will be more disputes because there is more opportunity for cybersquatting," said Karen Marie Kitterman, a lawyer with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Fenwick & West.
Some experts believe the addition of names could affect the value of ".com." Already, Internet addresses have lost some of their luster of even a year ago, when Business.com sold for a tidy $7.5 million--the highest bid to date.
Eventually, people will be able to type common words, such as "food," "stocks" and "travel," into their browsers and pull up popular Web sites under those descriptions, analysts say.
Privately held RealNames, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., plans to introduce such a feature, executives announced at the ICANN meeting in Marina Del Rey, Calif., this week.
Still, competition for this new batch of domains was stiff, as many believed the gatekeeper of the next hot domain suffix could strike gold.
New domains approved by the board are subject to approval by the Department of Commerce.