By Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent
A Dutch technology company has breathed life into a project to rid the
Internet of suffixes such as .com, and instead offer single names
which can be countries, company names or fantasy words.
Such a system, which enables countries, individuals and firms to have
a Web address which consists of a single name, offers flexibility and
is language and character independent.
"The plan is to offer names in any character set," said Erik Seeboldt,
managing director of Amsterdam-based UnifiedRoot.
UnifiedRoot offers practically unlimited numbers of suffixes, unlike
the short list of suffixes currently in use. Its offer is different
from other "alternative root" providers such as New.net which offers
to register names in front of a small range of new suffixes, such as
.club and .law.
"We've already had thousands of registrations in a single day," said
Seeboldt after the official opening of his 100-strong company which
has installed 13 Internet domain name system (DNS) root servers on
Dutch airport Schiphol is one of the early customers. Registering a
name costs $1,000 plus an annual fee of $240. Companies can then
invent additional Web site addresses in front of their top-level
domain (TLD) name, such as flights.schiphol or parking.schiphol.
Critics argue alternative root companies such as UnifiedRoot introduce
ambiguity because they bring a new set of traffic rules to the Web
which are, certainly in the beginning, only recognized by a limited
number of computers around the world.
"Those who claim to be able to add new 'suffixes' or 'TLDs' are
generally pirates or con-men with something to sell," said Paul Vixie,
who sits in several committees of the California-based Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with day-to-day
control of the Web, on his CircleID blog.
Others, however are more appreciative and welcoming.
"The existence of alternate roots, and the possibility of new ones,
provides a useful competitive check on ICANN," said Jon Weinberg, a
member of ICANNwatch which keeps a critical eye on ICANN.
ICANN is overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce and operates the
root servers of the Internet which guide all Web traffic. The
organization also determines which top-level domains are recognized by
those root servers.
At the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society earlier
this month, many countries said they wanted to take part in the
governance of ICANN. But the United States would not give up control.
UnifiedRoot plans to take advantage of unhappiness about ICANN by
offering geographic locations for free to countries, regions and
If alternative root companies want their TLDs recognized by computers
around the world, they need to circumvent ICANN by pointing every
single Internet computer around the world to their own root servers --
which contain a copy of ICANN's root server plus the addition of
A quicker way to change the settings in individual computers is by
closing deals with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which can change
the settings for all their subscribers.
UnifiedRoot has already clinched deals with most ISPs in Turkey. ISP
Tiscali is also a UnifiedRoot client.
To avoid conflicts between TLDs from UnifiedRoot and ICANN, the Dutch
company will not register existing ICANN TLDs.
UnifiedRoot took over from a Dutch company called UNIDT which launched
the initial plan for TLDs last year, but which relied on a network of
root servers controlled by individuals. This made the network
vulnerable to manipulation or even criminal attack directing Internet
surfers to fake Web sites.
"The network has not been abused, but this was a mistake," said Marty
van Veluw, the founder and manager of UNIDT who sold his client base
and some other assets to UnifiedRoot.
"UnifiedRoot has understood that the network needs to be 100 percent
reliable, and they put a new one in place," he said.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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