By Brendan Sasso - 12/14/11 08:31 PM EST
ICANN, a Calif.-based nonprofit group that manages the Web's naming system, approved a plan in June to allow for new top-level domain names in addition to traditional domains such as “.com” or “.org.” Beginning on Jan. 12, organizations can apply for new addresses ending in almost any word or phrase.
But an array of advertisers, businesses and nonprofits are worried the plan could force them to defensively buy up potential domains related to their brand. They have also expressed concern that the new domains would create opportunities for scammers to set up fake websites to take advantage of consumers.
Dan Jaffee, vice president of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers, called the plan a "reckless experiment."
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said ICANN hasn't proven that there is any problem with the current system.
ICANN argues its plan will increase innovation and competition on the Internet and will create new options for consumers.
Kurt Pritz,a senior vice president at ICANN, said the group will only grant new top-level domains "that meet stringent technical and financial criteria."
He said allowing for any new domain that meets the strict criteria will prevent ICANN from having to pick winners and losers.
It is unclear whether Congress can do anything to stop the rollout of new domains. ICANN is an independent, international nonprofit.
Eshoo pressed Pritz on what he would say if the subcommittee formally asked ICANN to put its plan on hold.
He said the decision to allow for new top-level domains was made after careful deliberation and input from numerous stakeholders.