Internet Seeks New Names for Web Expansion

The Internet is at a crossroads. As it explodes with thousands of new participants and Web sites, it needs new names to identify them all.

The International Ad Hoc Committee, formed by the US-based Internet Society in October 1996, announced in mid-December that it would create seven new "top level domain name" categories that it says are crucial for the next levels of expansion. It hopes to announce the new names in February after getting feedback from individual Internet users and groups with a large stake in the technology.

Currently Internet addresses are organized into seven generic categories: ".com," ".org," ".edu," ".net," ".gov," ".mil," and ".int," an international category for groups such as the United Nations.

The most overloaded category is ".com" (short for commercial) where several thousand names are being added each day.

There have been more than a few corporate fisticuffs over the registering of names under this category. For instance, what company has the right to the "sun.com" domain name when several companies use the name "Sun" in their legal name? And what if an employee of a Sun company wanted to set up a home site for Sun employees?

The committee envisioned that the new category names would consist of three to five letters each and that the names would suggest some connection with the Internet.

Martin Burack, executive director of the Internet Society, says it has been getting 200 to 500 messages a day on suggestions for new names. He says an obvious new category would be ".biz," which would help head off the explosion of demand for sites ending in ".com."

Other suggestions include a ".fun" category; language categories such as ".fre" to encourage French language site development, for example; or ".joe" for noncommercial, just plain Joes and Josephines who want to create noncommercial, company related sites such as fan clubs.

Recommendations have been posted at http://www.iahc.org. The public can comment at the site, until Jan. 17.

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