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The latest venture to come from investor Bill Gross’ Idealab incubator aims to diversify the Internet’s increasingly monotonous domain-name system by circumventing the bureaucracy that has been accused of creating it. On Monday, 10-month-old New.net began selling domain names based on 20 new extensions, the endings of Internet addresses. Several of these extensions, including “.kids,” “.xxx” and “.travel,” were rejected last year by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit organization that supervises Web addresses, when it chose seven new top-level domains. The ICANN-sanctioned domains, the first to be introduced since the mid-1980s, have yet to be implemented and likely won’t be available until late this year. Many domain-name registrars, and those wanting to buy desirable cyber real estate, have been outraged by the slow progress and the small number of new names selected. “They [ICANN] have moved slowly, which has created this opportunity for a market-based solution to answer the need for better domain names now,” said David Hernhand, CEO of the Pasadena, Calif.-based New.net. Internet names ending in the popular “.com” extension have grown increasingly difficult to secure, necessitating new extensions, Hernhand said. More than 75 percent of all registered names end in “.com.” Although demand for a wider variety of names has grown, New.net is fighting an uphill battle. The company’s registry isn’t part of the ICANN-maintained Domain Name Infrastructure and therefore cannot be accessed automatically by most Internet users. Instead, a command embedded in special software plug-ins or special settings used by partnering ISPs will add “new.net” to the end of the domain name keyed in by Internet users, routing the request to the company’s own server. Currently, only the 16 million Internet users subscribing to the three ISPs that have partnered with New.net can access sites registered at New.net. The company plans to increase that number by adding new partnering ISPs and by offering free and easy software plug-ins on its Web site. Although its following is still relatively small, observers say New.net could introduce instability into the system. Barbara Dooley, president of the Commercial Internet Exchange Association, said the alternative server will only create confusion. “Once you start splitting the root in this way and you no longer have a central authority source, then what happens when you have two different parties who want the same name?” she said. Dooley added that a similar attempt failed because most ISPs refused to cooperate by changing their settings. New.net now has three cooperating ISPs, including EarthLink and NetZero. There are more than 15,000 ISPs worldwide. Still, ICANN critics have argued for years that the organization is too cautious for its own good. “Instability is another word for innovation. It’s always destabilizing,” said David Post, a law professor at Temple University. “Some destabilization is very constructive, and I have no reason to think that New.net isn’t that sort of destabilization.” Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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