The origins of the Internet as a U.S. military project sponsored by the  DefenseAdvanced Research Projects Agency established the United States as the controlling entity for thedomain naming service (DNS). The U.S. government, through the Department of Commerce, tapped Network Solutions (InterNIC) to compile aregistry of all organizations and individuals using domain names on the Web.

In 1998  the U.S. Commerce Department  chose the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN) to head the process to privatize administration of the Net's addressing system andother key functions. ICANN has moved forward on two fronts:

  • Increasing the number of companies that can submit domain names to the registry
  • Increasing the number of top level domain names beyond the seven existing today.

New Domain Name Registrants

In April 1999 ICANN opened up registration of domain names to five new registrants: America Online, InternetCouncil of Registrars, France Telecom/Oleane, Melbourne IT, and five companies, along with NetworkSolutions, form a " testbed" designed to demonstrate that more than onecompany can participate in updating the common domain name database. Each registrant mustbe able to simultaneously see and publish in real-time the available inventory of domainnames. The domain name database must be kept synchronized with a second database of DNSaddresses -- the numerical addresses computers use to send each other information -- maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority(IANA).

Once the bugs have been worked out of the system ICANN will allow 29 more companies to act as domain name registrants. The list of registrants will continue to grow.

New Top Level Domain Names

As part of a comprehensive review of the DNS system ICANN is considering the additionof  seven new top level domains  to relieve congestion. No  additions have yetbeen officially proposed, but you should keep up-to-date on ICANN's proposals. When new toplevel domains become available you might want to consider updating your domain name strategy. To get the most current information on when these changes might take place, go toICANN's Web Site. You can join its mailinglist by sending a message to majordomo@icann.orgwith the line " subscribe icann-announce" as the body of the message.

This is the list of the seven proposed new top level domains

  • .firm for businesses or firms
  • .store for businesses offering goods
  • .web for businesses emphasizing Web-related activities
  • .arts for entities emphasizing cultural and entertainment activities
  • .rec for entities emphasizing recreational activities
  • .info for providers of information services
  • .nom for individuals.

In addition, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)is also considering recommending four top leve ldomain names for Web site testing:

  • .test for use in testing of current or new DNS related code
  • .example  for use in documentation or as examples
  • .invalid for online construction of domain names that are sure to be invalid
  • .localhost for use when testing sites only on local hosts, i.e., servers normally not available to the Internet.

Published on: Oct 12, 1999