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Domain registrar cleans up names

A newly appointed registrar that was approving obscene domain names with the ".com" ending says it has curbed the controversial practice.

A newly appointed registrar that was approving obscene domain names with the ".com" ending said today that it has curbed the controversial practice.

The action was taken after CNET News.com reported yesterday that a Whois database provided by Geektools showed that at least one member of CORE (the Internet Council of Registrars) has registered domains containing words that have been banned by others. Other newcomers, however, say they will allow the expletives to be registered.

Domain Bank, a CORE member that went live last week, has put a stop to the practice.

"In the fray of coming up we weren't totally aware that a filter wasn't there," said Hal Lubsen, president of Domain Bank. "We responded very quickly and put a filter up just as NSI and Register.com has done." Register.com was the first of the "test bed" registrars appointed to test a shared registration system designed to end NSI's monopoly.

Network Solutions, which until recently was the sole registrar allowed to issue the most coveted forms of Internet addresses, has forbidden the registration of domain names containing the so-called seven dirty words made famous in a monologue by comedian George Carlin. But as new registrars enter the domain name business, NSI's rules are not the only ones governing the use of addresses ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org."

Lubsen said the number of dirty domains registered through his service was somewhere between 10 and 100. He has no plans to revoke those names, he added.

At least one other CORE member in the United States, Net Wizards, said it intends to allow obscene domain names for the time being. "It's hard to pass up hundreds or thousands of domain names," said Bill Rockefeller, vice president of Net Wizards, which also recently began selling domain names under the shared registration system.

Ken Stubbs, chairman of CORE, which counts 55 members from 23 countries, said the organization leaves it up to individual registrars to decide which domain names are allowed.

"In certain parts of the world, registrars are precluded by law from refusing to register a domain name," he said. International issues, he added, make a global policy difficult for other reasons. For example, rules forbidding expletives in all languages spoken by member registrars would be unwieldy.

Not that the issue hasn't been thorny enough already. Legitimate words, such as "shitake," may appear to be vulgar to filtering software, creating inconsistencies in policy.

In addition, several suits are pending over the ban on domain names containing expletives, including one naming NSI, all five test-bed registrars, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which was appointed by the Clinton administration to oversee the privatization of domain name registration.