Commerce Department urges changes to domain name expansion

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 ICANN, a Calif.-based nonprofit group that manages the Web’s naming system, approved a plan in June to allow for new generic top-level domain names in addition to traditional domain endings such as “.com” or “.org.” Beginning on Jan. 12, organizations can apply for new addresses ending in almost any word or phrase, such as ".sport" or ".food."

But an array of advertisers, businesses and nonprofits are worried the plan could force them to defensively buy up domains related to their brand. 

Strickling urged ICANN to take additional steps to ensure brand owners do not feel they have to buy domains they do not intend to use, but he did not specify any potential actions.

The letter suggests that after the application period ends, ICANN should consider slowly phasing in the new domains.

"Having the ability to evaluate the actual situations or conflicts presented by the applied for strings, rather than merely theoretical ones, will certainly assist and focus everyone's efforts to respond to problems should they arise," Strickling wrote.

He also urged ICANN to better educate stakeholders about the program and to promptly implement its commitments to law enforcement and consumer protection.

“We appreciate Assistant Secretary Strickling’s comments and suggestions," Crocker said in an emailed statement. "We also appreciate the fact that he recognizes that many of the recent concerns expressed about the new top-level domain program are more about 'perceived' problems than actual deficiencies in the new gTLD program. ICANN will review all of Mr. Strickling’s recommendations and those from all other stakeholders with the intent of making this program truly beneficial to the global Internet community.”

ICANN is an international nonprofit that does not answer to the U.S. government, and Strickling was careful not to question its independence.

"NTIA recognizes that this program is the product of a six-year international multistakeholder process and we do not seek to interfere with the decisions and compromised reached during that process," he wrote.