The new group, the Top Level Domain Association (TLDA) will accept membership applications from an estimated 200 operators of some 500 TLDs around the world.
The best-known TLDs are those recognised by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), including .com, .net, .edu and .org. But many others exist outside the authority of ICANN. Those domains, however, are only viewable on the Internet if special Domain Name System (DNS) configuration settings have been added to users' computers.
Leah Gallegos, a board member of the new group and president of Georgia-based domain supplier AtlanticRoot Network, said the new association is being created to recognise existing unofficial TLD holders who are being ignored by ICANN and to foster co-operation to avoid continued TLD naming conflicts.
The problem, says Gallegos, is that some of ICANN's pending TLD designations, such as .biz, are already being used as TLDs outside the official ICANN system. What that will do is create havoc and domain name "collisions". Internet users will not be able to find the sites they are seeking because of duplicate TLDs in use across the Internet, she said.
ICANN and the operators of the approximately 500 unofficial TLDs will be invited to join the new group, Gallegos said, as it "works toward a stable, collision-free name space" online.
AtlanticRoot manages five TLDs not recognised by ICANN. They are .biz, .online, .etc, .ngo (nongovernmental organisation) and .npo (non-profit organisation).
In March, California-based New.net, a start-up domain name registry, began operations. It launched 20 new TLDs outside of ICANN's existing system. Eighteen of the 20 collided with TLDs that are already in use elsewhere, Gallegos said, fueling concerns about such overlaps.
Meanwhile, talks are continuing today between the US Commerce Department, ICANN and California-based VeriSign over the management of the existing .com TLD and related issues.
VeriSign proposed changes two months ago in the contract it has with ICANN to administer the registries for the .com, .org and .net TLDs.
VeriSign and ICANN approved a series of proposed changes to the original contracts, but the Commerce Department must give final approval if the changes are to be enacted. The amended contracts would allow VeriSign to continue to administer the .com and .net registries for the next five years, while giving up the .org registry next year.