Expansion of New Top Level Domains Would Go Better At A Slower Pace

The new domain suffixes, particularly the longer ones, may cause a failure in any link in the chain of operating systems, mail servers, routers, mail service providers, security software, and other components that makes up the pathways through the Internet

As contributed by Roger Kay  on Forbes.

So, I’ve already said it once this year: more than 12 months after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened up the Web domain space to a potentially infinite number of new names, the greatest expansion has been in confusion.

Once upon a time there were only 22 generic top-level domains (sometimes called gTLDs, Internet domains, Web domains, or just domains ) with type suffixes like .com, .net, .mil, and .gov, and geographic suffixes like .uk, .ru, and .jp.

Now there are close to 500 — with potentially 900 more to come in the next few months.

After an initial flurry of apparent enthusiasm — a certain amount of defensive purchasing of adjacent name spaces (e.g., Apple AAPL -2.61% nailing down .mac, Amazon.com AMZN -0.81% snagging .book, and Johnson & Johnson JNJ -1.59% grabbing .baby), a large number of speculative buys of random handles like .tattoo, .bike, .attorney, .bingo, .broker, .lol, and .pizza, and a few successes oriented toward a specific geography (e.g., .london) or professional association (e.g., .realtor) — new registrations have slowed to a trickle.

One of the biggest problems is compatibility.  That is, a lot of the new domain names don’t work with existing devices and software.  Browsers don’t handle the new suffixes consistently or as expected, mail systems sometimes reject them as invalid, and some enterprise software generates unpredictable errors, which may requiring significant revisions to fix.

At an ICANN meeting in Singapore in February, a working group charged with sorting out the problem of “universal acceptance” admitted that the prospect of mass incompatibility is scary.  Brent London, Google’s representative in the working group, put it pretty straightforwardly: “New types of domains and email addresses break stuff.  Just to send an email from one person to another, you’d find yourself in a situation where an operating system, mail servers, routers, mail service providers, security software, all need to work properly.”  And with the new suffixes, sometimes they don’t.

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