ICANN CEO: Cities, States Eager for New Top-Level Domains

Some of the greatest interest in the slate of new top-level Internet domain names set to be opened up Thursday has come from governments, the chief executive of the non-profit body that will oversee those new domains said.

In some cases national governments are interested in new top-level domains that, for the first time in history, will be opened up to non-Latin scripts such as Chinese and Arabic, said Rod Beckstrom, CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Even more often, cities and states or provinces are eager for the chance to wield greater control over their Internet presences.

A top-level domain is the most common part of an Internet address such as the dot-com in Google.com or the dot-gov in Whitehouse.gov. ICANN will launch a long-planned program Thursday that could add between a few hundred and a few thousand top-level domains to the roughly two dozen that exist now. That could mean booming business for Web entrepreneurs, but others have argued the transition will be a nightmare for intellectual property holders.

The U.S. government controls the dot-gov domain, but most other nations have to rely on second-level domains, such as dot.gov.uk. Many states and cities also have second-level domains such as Iowa.gov and Baltimorecity.gov. The expansion of top-level domains would bring municipalities and states much more control over their Internet presences but would also saddle them with some of the responsibilities, both for security and content quality, that have dogged the U.S. government.

Beckstrom took questions on the transition Tuesday after a presentation hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Most questions after the presentation were focused on concerns about the transition raised by businesses and some members of Congress concerned about rampant trademark violations.