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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers received a surprisingly large batch of applications to add new top-level domains, as 45 companies and groups requested permission to create lucrative cyber-real estate and relieve the crunch for space in the dot-com domain. ICANN, a nonprofit group chosen by the Clinton administration to run the domain-name system, plans to select a handful of new domains from the applications in November. New top-level domains should be ready to open for business early next year. The addition of top-level domains comes just as ICANN seeks to elect five new members to its 19-member board of directors. The group has been criticized for ignoring or under-representing the concerns of ordinary Internet users, who will elect the new board in a global Web election. The election runs through Oct. 10, but the voter-registration period has already closed. Each of the five new board members will be elected from a different region of the world. Six of the seven candidates for the single North American board seat met Monday night to debate ICANN policy at Harvard Law School. Most of the candidates were sharply critical of ICANN’s decisions, including the plan to add only a few new top-level domains. Most candidates wanted to add many more new domains, although the election winners won’t take their seats until November, after the board selects the first round of new domains. The applications for new top-level domains covered a variety of different proposals, but a few new domains were coveted by more than one applicant. Four of the applications wanted to create a “.kids” domain that would include Web sites appropriate for children and presumably bar pornographic or other adult-oriented sites. The applications also included five competing plans for “.biz,” four for “.tel” and three for “.xxx,” a domain favoring pornographic sites. As expected, the applications also included several specialized-domain proposals. The World Health Organization applied to run “.health;” a group of museums led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History and the J. Paul Getty Museum proposed creating “.museum;” and the National Cooperative Business Association filed for “.coop” and “.co-op.” Also, a group of 19 leading firms that register names under “.com” filed a plan to run a new generic top-level domain open to all called “.web.” The group’s application was made under the name Afilias by the New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The group also proposed the domain names “.info” and “.site.” ICANN posted only limited information about each application on its Web site Monday night, noting proposed domain names and sponsors. The information did not include details of how each proposal would operate, such as whether Web sites would be excluded or limited in one manner or another. ICANN officials said they would post the full applications shortly (excluding data the submitters said was confidential). At the very least, the flood of applications should help relieve ICANN’s cash crunch. The group charged a $50,000 nonrefundable fee for each application, totaling $2.25 million paid by the 45 submitters. At the candidate debate Monday night, the money question arose before anyone knew of the application bounty. ICANN has been in a constant struggle to raise the few million dollars it needs to run its operations since it created a political firestorm by proposing a fee that would charge Internet users a $1 for each domain name they registered. The plan outraged Congress, and ICANN backed off even though the $1 per domain name registered was aimed at the firms that charge users for the registrations, not at the users directly. Among the six candidates, Professor Emerson Tiller of the University of Texas suggested ICANN should be funded by auctioning the right to operate new domains to the highest bidders. Cisco Systems researcher Karl Auerbach took the opposite approach, arguing that millions of new top-level domains should be created and sold for a nominal fee of $6 to anyone who wanted one. Internet industry lobbyist Harris Miller and Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig favored reviving some form of charge per domain name. BBN Technologies chief scientist Lyman Chapin said he would charge a fee to domain-name registries for having their domains listed in the Internet’s central root zone database. And computer scientist Barbara Simons suggested a sliding fee scale assessed on top-level domain managers. All of the candidates except Miller took frequent shots at ICANN, typically arguing that the group was ignoring the desires of ordinary Internet users and favoring special interests such as trademark holders. “ICANN is at a moment when it can become something which is quite destructive,” warned Lessig, citing the possibility that the group could be used to enforce undesirable policies on the Internet relating to privacy, intellectual property protection or censorship. Karl Auerbach offered the most heated critique of the organization. “ICANN is more closed than a group I used to work for — the National Security Administration,” he said. “We have an organization I wouldn’t trust for anything.” Harris Miller, president of the industry trade group the Information Technology Association of America, was the lone voice defending ICANN in front of a 60-person audience and a few hundred tuned in to the live Webcast. “The idea that this is some kind of cult hiding behind closed doors isn’t true.” Barbara Simons said she feared the Internet could go the way of commercial radio — bland and controlled by large corporations — if ICANN continued favoring special interests. “We have to make it possible for people to participate in a meaningful way,” she said, suggesting that ICANN do a better job of soliciting public input. Tiller agreed. Most of ICANN’s board is elected by special-interest constituencies such as intellectual property owners and domain-name registration firms, he pointed out. The current election for five seats will represent everyone else, he said. “The at-large membership is really a check for the all the special interests that are hard-wired into ICANN.” Chapin warned that many of ICANN’s actions had no basis in law and therefore were “necessarily suspect.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: The New Masters of Domains ICANN Sets Its Election Rules ICANN: An Overview Copyright � 2000 The Industry Standard

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