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New Zealander steers internet to big names expansion

New Zealander Peter Dengate Thrush, who chairs the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), today steered the internet through one of the biggest changes in its history.

Tue, 21 Jun 2011

New Zealander Peter Dengate Thrush, who chairs the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), today steered the internet through one of the biggest changes in its history.

Icann manages the internet's web addresses and at a meeting in Singapore today approved a vast expansion of the range of addresses available, so that website names will soon be able to end with anything from ".shop" to ".canon".

The group has made it possible for users to create their own extensions such as .com, .net or .org.

Some users are already preparing to register names such as .berlin or .canon, and entrepreneurs are working on a flotilla of other sites.

Icann until now allowed 22 suffixes including ".com" and ".org" . Last year, ".com" had 89.2 million address registrations, ".net" had 13.5 million, and ".org" 8.3 million.

All three were so-called "legacy domains" that were created in 1985 before the formation of Icann. The next most popular domains were ".info" with 6 million registrations in 2010 and ".biz" with 2 million.

But from 2012 Icann will accept requests for almost any word in any language -- from January 12 to April 12.

Icann planned safeguards to thwart "cybersquatting", the practice of registering domain names and selling them to trademark owners at a profit.

Applications will cost $US185,000 ($NZ228,000) and the first of these "top level domain names" won't go live until the end of 2012, Adrian Kinderis, a member of Icann's advisory council, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Canon, Deloitte and Hitachi Ltd are among companies that have expressed interest in company domain names, while generic names would be auctioned to the highest bidders, Kinderis said.

Existing trademark owners can claim their names for use in addresses during "sunrise” periods following the rollout but businesses may have to buy addresses to keep their brands from being hijacked, which costs $US500,000 per company, the newspaper reported.

"Today's decision will usher in a new Internet age," Mr Dengate Thrush said in a statement.

"We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. My expectation is that people will look at this in a fairly commercial way," he said.

"My hope is that they aren’t going to waste a lot of time and money applying for names that don’t stand a chance."

The vote for the new regime has been seen internationally as a personal triumph for Mr Dengate Thrush, a Wellington barrister who replaced Vint Cerf in 2007 as "chairman of cyberspace'' at Icann, based in Marina Del Rey, California.

The organisation became major powerbroker since being set up in 1998 by the US Commerce Department to administer addresses on the internet, and Mr Dengate Thrush has been involved with Icann since its inception.

His work in New Zealand litigation included specialist work on intellectual property, competition and internet law, and he was the legal advisor to InternetNZ from 1996 to 1999, advising it on the formation of its registry company (Domainz) and acting in early domain name disputes. He chaired the body for two terms from 1999 and chaired its international affairs committee.

Under Mr Dengate Thrush, Icann's board recommended at a meeting in Paris three years ago to go ahead with the new domain names, but final authorisation was delayed several times, though it went ahead with other expansions, including the use of non-Latin alphabets such as Chinese in domain names.

Today's meeting in Singapore was Mr Dengate Thrush's last as chairman: he has been appointed by Commerce Minister Simon Power to the Copyright Tribunal for a five-year term to hear disputes between licensing bodies, or proposed licensing bodies, and those who hold or seek licences in respect of works of copyright.

Tue, 21 Jun 2011
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New Zealander steers internet to big names expansion