ICANN warns against new domain preregistrations

ICANN warns against new domain preregistrations

With seven new Internet top-level domains due to officially become available later this year, some domain name registrars are getting an early start and offering preregistrations to companies. But that practice has risks for users, according to the organisation that oversees the domain name system.

Brett LaGrande, a spokesman for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in the US, said companies can't be guaranteed the use of domain names that they preregister because all the details still haven't been finalised for the planned addition of the new domains chosen last fall by the organisation's board.

"ICANN doesn't recommend doing it and neither does the Federal Trade Commission," LaGrande said. He added that the new top-level domains (TLD), which include the likes of .biz, .aero, .info and .pro, probably won't be finalised until the fall.

For now, ICANN's official position is that "no one has been authorised to 'preregister' domain names in the new TLDs," according to a statement on its Web site. "Persons who attempt to 'preregister' such domain names do so at their own risk and with no assurance that they will receive the preregistered names once the TLDs become operational," ICANN said.

But that hasn't stopped companies such as OnlineNIC Inc., a Fremont, Calif.-based domain name registrar that's accredited by ICANN, from offering advance registrations for the new TLDs. OnlineNIC, which was originally headquartered in China, announced today that it's making preregistrations available under four of the seven domains: .biz, .pro., .info and .name.

Despite its warning to users, ICANN "has not told us that we cannot preregister," said Marvin McCarthy, OnlineNIC's marketing director. "Otherwise, we wouldn't do it." Other registrars are making similar offers "and we want to be competitive," he added. For users, McCarthy said, preregistration provides a chance to secure domain names that they might have missed out on under existing TLDs such as .com and .org.

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