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Three new domains may be added in 2003

Internet users could be typing three new suffixes into their Web browsers next year, as the group that oversees the Internet's addressing system calls for proposals to create new top-level domains (TLDs).

In a statement released last week, president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Stuart Lynn, said he was recommending the creation of three sponsored TLDs.

Sponsored domains are created for specific community groups, unlike generic domains such as ".com" and ".org." Existing sponsored domains include suffixes such as ".museum" which could be used by any museum that wished to apply for a domain name with that extension.

ICANN's board could vote on the new TLDs at the group's annual meeting in December, paving the way for new addresses to become available sometime next year.

Lynn said that sponsored domains are easier to implement than generic ones, while filling "demonstrable community needs".

The call for the new domains comes as the group is still in the process of evaluating the seven TLDs that it approved in 2000, including ".biz" and ".info".

Stuart suggested that approval of the sponsored TLDs could be streamlined, enabling them to be implemented even while the group is still evaluating the other domains.

The call for new TLDs comes as the much-maligned non-profit group is seeking to reform itself amid claims that it is ineffective and overly bureaucratic.

Lynn's recommendations that approval of new TLDs should be pushed through, despite ICANN's overhaul and unfinished evaluation of the previous seven domains, may signal that the group is responding to demands for more responsive governance.

However, Lynn's suggestion to limit the new TLDs to community-specific addresses is still disappointing to some observers, who would like to see the naming system reflect market demand rather than follow stringent regulation.

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