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Thousands of Sites Spared by Decision on .web Suffix

November 20, 2000|KAREN KAPLAN

While the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers made news last week for approving seven new suffixes that will join the ubiquitous .com, the Los Angeles-based group also gained attention for some of the suffixes it didn't OK.

Of the more than 100 proposals received by the group known as ICANN, one of the most desirable was .web. Three companies submitted applications for the right to assign Web and e-mail addresses ending in .web. After five hours of discussion, the ICANN board was on the verge of awarding the coveted suffix to Afilias, a consortium of 19 companies that are already registering Net addresses ending in .com, .net and .org.

One of the other .web applicants was Image Online Design. The San Luis Obispo firm already has been registering .web addresses for five years. Although these .web sites can be accessed through IO Design's servers, they are otherwise invisible to the larger Internet.

With approval from ICANN, those approximately 21,000 .web sites would become visible all over the Net. But with .web in the hands of Afilias, those sites would probably have been shut down. That was clearly an unsettling prospect for Chris Ambler, IO Design's chief technology officer. As he watched the ICANN board proceedings in a hotel ballroom in Marina del Rey last Thursday, "I was thinking that our five years of hard work were gone, down the drain," he said. But then ICANN board member Vint Cerf--widely considered one of the Internet's founding fathers for his role in creating the language of the global computer network--spoke up.

"I have some sympathy for IO Design, as pioneers," he said. Although fellow board members Hans Kraaijenbrink and Frank Fitzsimmons favored giving .web to Afilias, Cerf persuaded the rest to award Afilias the .info suffix instead. That move kept .web unassigned for the time being.

Though disappointed that IO Design didn't emerge from ICANN's four-day meeting with the rights for .web, the company will get another shot the next time ICANN approves a new round of suffixes, probably next year. Ambler said he has no idea what his company's chances will be then, but he certainly appreciates the support from Cerf.

"I've always looked up to him as a role model," Ambler said. "To have him stand up for the pioneer really makes me feel good."

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