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Internet body considers joining the dots -

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By next year, popular domain names including .com and .org could be competing with .food, .eco and
even .Sydney. The Internet's peak governance body is considering an address system overhaul which
is backed by the NSW Premier and the Federal Communications Minister.

PETER CAVE: Within 12 months Australians could see an expansion of web domain names, beyond the
present 21 domains, which include dot com, the dot org and dot net.

That's if a proposal by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, is
embraced and rolled out on time.

The issue of domain names was at the centre of attention at a week-long conference, hosted by the
Internet's peak governance body this week.

But some IT experts are concerned about the implications of such an expansion.

Esther Han reports.

ESTHER HAN: Web addresses as we know them are in for a big overhaul.

PAUL LEVINS: We're all familiar with the dot coms, the dot orgs, the dot infos - that's what they
call a 'top level domain' in a domain name. We're going to expand that space so that can have an
almost limitless supply or suggestion of expressions.

ESTHER HAN: Paul Levins is the vice-president of corporate affairs at the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers.

He says if ICANN's proposal goes ahead, the Internet address system could be revolutionised by
April 2010.

PAUL LEVINS: The Premier of New South Wales talking about the potential for a dot Sydney address.
So there's you know, the Mayor of Paris has talked about a dot Paris. But then there's generic,
other generic names for example, that are non-geographic: dot eco, supported by Al Gore; dot food,
supported by the famous American chef Wolfgang Puck.

So there's a lot of interest in the expansion of that name space.

ESTHER HAN: This is the main talking point of a week-long international conference hosted by ICANN
in Sydney.

The proposal's got the backing from Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. He told the conference
the plans are essential for the globalisation of the Internet.

But not everyone's feeling so assured. Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt is an information
technology expert from the University of Sydney.

BJORN LANDFELDT: Traditionally there has been a very well-defined structure. The structure has led
to some kind of order. So we have some rules that guide us how we get to information and structure
information.

But it's also been restrictive and there's been a marketplace for very good names. Classic examples
is a case in the US with Nissan v Nissan, when Nissan Motor Corp basically stole the Nissan.com
address from a small company in the US - was well publicised as quite a nasty affair.

ESTHER HAN: Peter Coroneos is the chief executive of the Internet Industry Association.

He's not sure whether the expansion of domain names would reduce trademark and intellectual
property disputes.

PETER CORONEOS: One of the issues that is going to need to be confronted here in the implementation
of a dramatic expansion of domain names is how in fact you would handle the intellectual property
issues.

In other words, who will have the stronger claim to a pre-existing name: is it the person that gets
in there first and registers it, or is it the person who has a registered trademark in a number of
jurisdictions?

ESTHER HAN: But Paul Levins says ICANN will set a fair assessment procedure if two parties contend
for the same name.

PAUL LEVINS: So there's an application process that takes into account the various checks and
balances for those names. So that there'll be a comparative evaluation of the merits of the
different applicants that'll take place.

And in the spirit of the ICANN model, it'll be a cooperative arrangement where we analyse both
those applications and try and, through a process, discern who is best equipped to be able to
operate that top level domain.

ESTHER HAN: Despite the risks, ICANN is confident the biggest change to the Internet ever attempted
will be successful.

PETER CAVE: Esther Han with that report.