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Tough questions in US over plan for 'more than 1000' new domain names

A plan for as many as 1,000 new top-level domains such as .com and .net has been portrayed as a tax on the internet, a threat to businesses, and a needless headache for law enforcement officials, at a Senate hearing in Washington.

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But ultimately, the opponents can do little to stop the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers- ICANN - from moving ahead on January 12, just over a month away, said AdAge magazine.

An ICANN representative did not respond when asked whether the three-month application period for a gTLD (short for generic top-level domain) would begin then, as planned.

One of the new applications is expected to be for the .scot domain, which has attracted wide support in Scotland. Big companies such as Coca Cola and Google are expected to apply for domains with their own name. The cost is expected to be about £114,000 each.

At the Senate hearing however, Esther Dyson, former chairman of ICANN's board was critical of the big expansion. She likened the new TLDs to financial derivatives that "create opportunities for entrepreneurs but don't really create any value for the economy."

She added: "This really is a tax on the internet. Creating a whole new set of redundant names isn't useful."

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire's former attorney general, worried about what the expansion would mean for efforts to curb internet crime. ICANN Senior VP Kurt Pritz said ICANN was discussing recommendations from law enforcement agencies. Senator Ayotte questioned why ICANN was sticking to a January launch when negotiations were ongoing.

"That is really going to be a challenge [for law enforcement] when you go from 22 [TLDs] to, who knows, 1,000," Ms. Ayotte said. "That, in and of itself, will be a huge challenge."

Dan Jaffe, for the US Association of National Advertisers, wanted ICANN to delay the launch.

He said. "There is nothing sacrosanct about this Jan. 12 date." Hundreds of new generic TLDs would burden businesses of all sizes, "forcing them to defensively purchase numerous domains with different iterations of their brand names."

Angela Williams, for the YMCA of the USA, said they did not have funds for defensive registration of countless names. The YMCA has already reserved the new YMCA.xxx, she said, "but we can't afford to keep trying to do this to protect our brand."

Pritz said corporations and other parties would not need to defensively register as many domains as they think - because many of the new TLDs will not be large enough to attract cybersquatters .

ICANN was originally founded after a request by the US Department of Commerce for an organisation to privatize management of the domain-name system.

Rod Beckstrom, ICANN President has been visiting Sao Paulo, London, Paris, Berlin and Dubai (among other cities) to explain what the new programme is all about. He has talked about its benefits and cautioned that new gTLDs are not intended for every organisation.

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