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Start-Up Offers Alternative System for Net Addresses

Web: Idealab-backed firm, which will compete with ICANN, aims to meet the demand for more straightforward suffixes.

March 06, 2001|KAREN KAPLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Idealab start-up on Monday launched an alternative system for assigning Internet names, offering direct competition to the government-sponsored bureaucracy that supervises most of the world's .com names.

New.net, a Pasadena start-up, is hoping to tap into demand from consumers and businesses for Web and e-mail addresses with more straightforward endings such as .shop, .chat, .kids and .xxx.

Net users have been frustrated with the years-long effort led by the government-sponsored Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to expand the types of names on the Net.

The Los Angeles-based nonprofit group approved seven new suffixes last fall that are scheduled to be available by the end of the year.

Several other companies have launched similar efforts to create an alternative to ICANN's naming system, though they failed to generate much of a following.

But New.net, the Idealab-backed firm, already has struck deals with three of the largest Internet service providers--EarthLink Network, NetZero and Excite@Home--which together have 16 million users.

The problem is that by working outside the official auspices of ICANN, New.net raises the possibility, however remote, that the same Internet name could be issued to two users--one through a registrar accredited by ICANN, the other by New.net.

Internet experts said if this happened it would cause great confusion on the global computer network, just as if two homes were assigned the same phone number.

"If this model succeeds, then three or four other [groups] might try the same thing," said Milton Mueller, an associate professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies and a member of one of the groups that advises ICANN.

ICANN declined to comment on New.net's plans.

New.net doesn't plan to alter the "root server" computer system that lets Internet users find any Net address by consulting a master list. Instead, the Idealab outfit will create a supplemental list of addresses that users can find via New.net's servers, said Chief Executive David Hernand.

Customers of New.net's Internet service provider partners will be automatically routed to the company's servers whenever they type in an address ending in one of its 20 suffixes.

Other Web surfers can download a plug-in for their browsers or type ".new.net" on the end of an address, such as "www.books.shop." The firm said it would charge an annual fee of $25 per domain name and offer them on a first-come, first-served basis.

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