June 8, 2000
Mr. Donald Telage
Dear Chairman Telage:
I appreciate the Commission's invitation to provide information concerning the process for introduction of new top-level domains (TLDs) to the domain name system (DNS) of the Internet. Unfortunately, preparation for the upcoming Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Yokohama prevents me from attending these hearings in person. I hope this letter will meet the Commission's needs.
ICANN does not express a position on the advisability of adding a new TLD specifically for adult material. Rather, in this letter it seeks to describe the ongoing process of consideration of the addition of new TLDs generally.
ICANN is the non-profit corporation that was formed in 1998 by the Internet community at the invitation of the U.S. Government's White Paper. ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce are engaged in a joint project under which the U.S. Government is, as described in the White Paper, transitioning responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter assignment, domain name system management, and root server system management functions to the private sector.
In keeping with the history of the management of the Internet, ICANN uses a bottom-up, consensus-based decision-making process. ICANN is advised by three supporting organizations-the Address Support Organization, the Domain Name Support Organization, and the Protocol Support Organization-comprised of experts and interested participants who examine in-depth the issues facing ICANN and make recommendations to the ICANN Board. ICANN and its Supporting Organizations operate to the greatest extent feasible in open and transparent manner.
For several years, there have been proposals to implement additional TLDs in the DNS. Different types of TLDs have been discussed, ranging from TLDs available for registrations by any person or organization for any use ("unrestricted TLDs") to TLDs intended for registration by particular types of persons or organizations or for particular uses ("restricted TLDs").
In accordance with the bottom-up principle of the White Paper, in May 1999 the ICANN Board referred the issue of TLD expansion to its Domain Name Support Organization (DNSO). On June 25, 1999 the DNSO Names Council created a group, known as Working Group C, to study the issues raised by the introduction of new TLDs. Working Group C deliberated for approximately nine months and in March and April of this year submitted reports to the Names Council. On April 18, 2000, the Names Council adopted a set of recommendations to the ICANN Board.
Those recommendations, which are currently before the ICANN Board, call for the addition of a limited number of new top-level domains (TLDs). The Board is expected to act on these recommendations at its meeting in Yokohama, Japan on July 16, 2000.
Consistent with the recommendations of Working Group C, the Names Council stressed that the introduction of new TLDs should occur in a "measured and responsible manner," as part of an initial test bed designed to enable effective evaluation of the process. The Names Council expressed concern that a proposal to introduce initially as many as ten new TLDs did not enjoy consensus in the Internet community. The proposed limitation on the number of new TLDs to be initially introduced reflects concern about potential dangers to the stability of the Internet if many TLDs are added too quickly. Additionally, because no new generic TLD has been added for many years (since before the emergence of widespread commercial uses of the Internet), lack of experience in the practical implications of adding of new TLDs counsels caution.
Many groups, companies, and organizations have expressed needs and desires for new TLDs, ranging from open TLDs to promote competition with .com, to specialized non-commercial domains to promote advocacy and free-speech values, to a personal domain in which individuals may register their proper names. If the Board proceeds with the addition of new TLDs at its meeting on July 16, it is likely to call for proposals from organizations that wish to sponsor new TLDs and companies that wish to operate TLD registries. ICANN would then evaluate the proposals and select a small number of TLDs from among them according to policies adopted in the Internet community through the ICANN process. The Names Council's recommendations contemplate that, after introduction of this initial round of new TLDs, there will be a review of the experience gained to determine whether additional TLDs should be introduced.
Please let me know if you would like me to provide additional information on the process for introduction of new TLDs.
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