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Questions and Answers

Q1 - Isn't ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) responsible for domain names?

A1 - The U.S. Department of Commerce discussion and policy documents from 1998 present ICANN's background.  Read them and you realize that ICANN was conceived primarily to solve Department of Commerce problems, not Internet domain name problems.

Since ICANN was created to implement and administer the preconceived notion that additional generic top level domains (gTLDs) should be made available, those who subsequently identified themselves as ICANN's 'multistakeholders' were groups and individuals with a stake (financial interest) in adding new gTLDs or protecting their existing interests when new gTLDs were introduced.

In ICANN-speak, 'innovation' and 'competition' have always meant creating new combinations of letters for TLDs, and registries competing to run these domains.  User choice was initially considered important, but when users continued to chose one legacy TLD (see Question 2 below) ICANN replaced 'user choice' with 'diversity'.

Oh, by the way, did we mention that ICANN received 1930 applications, at a price of $185,000 each, to open new generic TLDs?  That amounts to income for ICANN of over $357 million for applications to sell something users don't want or need.

The proposal we've outlined is innovative (disruptive) and allows competition between registries, but we think it meets market needs better than continuing to add more gTLDs.

ICANN prides itself on following a multistakeholder model, but they have neglected the most important stakeholders - the user community of name customers and users.

Q2 - There are 145 million .com names registered (research.domaintools.com). Obviously it hasn't been hard to create new names.  What's the problem?

A2 - The problem is just that: 145 million .com names are registered.  Each name must be unique while in reality most names, and most trademarks, are not unique.

There are two separate US trademark owners of the name Google; the oldest US trademark on the name 'google' was registered in 1939.  That trademark owner does not own the corresponding .com domain name.

Beside the lack of equitable access to names under the preferred or default TLD (either .com or a country code TLD), many domain names are held for speculation, which keeps legitimate user content and commerce off the web.

The legacy system allows one person to 'own' a generic term.  Example: worldwide there can be only one plumber.com on the Internet.

As early as 2004, only 3.7% of corporations around the world had identical corporate and dotcom domain names.

Imagine the telephone system following Internet rules which allowed anyone in the world to register your name and thereby prevent you from getting phone service under your own name.

Or just try to register a domain name that is meaningful, short, and easy to remember.

ICANN's new batch of top-level domains doesn't alleviate the problems since names under many of the new generic TLDs are reserved (right of first refusal) for owners of the same name under existing TLDs.  An example is the new .uk TLD which grants the owners of existing .co.uk names a full 5 years to register the same second level name under the 'new' TLD.

That doesn't increase the name space, that sounds like a protection racket.

Q3 - Does this require a new naming system?

A3 - No, we're suggesting an evolution of the existing system.  The fundamentals aren't changed at all.

Here's how it would work:
Domain names are registered in a set format, then a little new technology is used to introduce a keyboard character that hasn't been available in domain names previously.  This character is restricted for use as an 'addressing token' in much the same way the @-character is used in e-mail addresses.

This character, plus a number, allows you to register names that are the same as - but at the same time different from - existing domain names.  This simple device would bring the Internet into better alignment with the real world, where different people and companies often share 'the same' name.

If we look at the alternatives:
We know that 'all the good names are gone' and have been for years.  If you're creating a new venture you may be able to register a short, catchy domain name and name your company after your domain, but if your company already enjoys name recognition and goodwill, even having a registered trademark won't help in most cases.

ICANN received over 1900 applications to register new generic Top Level Domains - at a cost of $185,000 per application.  This may be good for ICANN, but 'fragment and confuse' a not a good policy for Internet users!  New top levels have been introduced before, but have never been very successful.

The most successful 'legacy' new generic TLD, .info, was introduced in June, 2001, and has decreased from over 8.3 million to 4.68 million registered names, compared with 144 million registered .com names.  Another gTLD, .biz, was opened in 2001 to complement (or compete with) .com.  It has about 1.6 million registered names.

There are other expansion TLDs such as .aero (June, 2002), .coop (June, 2002) and .pro (June, 2004).  Do you even know they exist?

How many of ICANN's new generic top-level domains cane you name?

Users tend to treat the new domains with suspicion and businesses rightly view them as second rate addresses.

Wait list (back-order) systems are available for ordering names that expire, but how many people do you think are in line ahead of you to buy the 'good' names? How long can your business wait for a name, and do you want one that the previous owner may have run into the ground?

There is a secondary market in domain names, fueled by speculation. If it normally costs only a few dollars to register a name for a year, are you willing to pay thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the same name? Someone is getting rich on scarcity, but the scarcity is artificial and it promotes neither communication nor commerce - it impedes both.

Q4 - Don't search engines make this unnecessary?

A4 - If search engines were perfect we wouldn't need domain names at all, but domain disputes continue year after year - business owners want control over 'their own' names.

A normal user only reads the first a few pages of search engine results.  This means that as web content grows, positioning your business becomes harder instead of easier.

Look up 'JoeAndSons*2.com' in Google and you'll find the test page.  If you look for 'fish restaurant in San Francisco' without the name you get multiple pages covering 144 million hits.  Name recognition is important on the web, which it why it's important to have your business name registered as a domain.

Q5 - Why not just use numbers why add a new character like the asterisk to domain names?  Won't that confuse people and increase the risk of name abuse?

A5 - Good reasons for introducing an addressing token include security and avoiding possible collisions with existing names.  Another is that company, product and trademark names may already end in a number.  Consider the case of a television station that wants to use channel5.com as a domain name. There are lots of channel 5s in the world and the second registrant can't be expected to register as channel51.com which changes the meaning and identity, and besides, a UHF channel 51 may already own that domain name.

For novice users, the asterisk is just another character on their keyboard.  If the e-mail @-character isn't confusing, the asterisk shouldn't be.  One new character with a defined function is easier to assimilate than several (or many) new top level domains.  An asterisk that means several instances of the same name are registered is a positive security development for domain names.

The need to create new and original words to register as domain names generates uncertainty about name ownership and supports the abuse called typo-squatting.  Registering a name that is not your recognized name (because that one is already taken) generates confusion, uncertainty and frustration for the consumer.  Opening an unlimited supply of familiar words and names should help, and if name-based directories are created, additional information could be made available to users even before they type in or click on a domain name.

Some browsers already provide a list of potential domains to select from as you type, based on web site page names.

Q6 - Why not edit the software that translates Internationalized Domain Names to include the asterisk or some other token character?

A6 - Translation of the same non-LDH ASCII character differs depending on the character's environment. Swedish character '' is translated differently in domain names 'b.se', 'br.se' and 'brs.se'.  The same would apply to any non-LDH character, including the asterisk.

This would create new problems by obfuscating the native name for users, and has been identified as a major security issue for Internationalized names.  Internet security is promoted by a system that is consistent and transparent for users.

Q7 - Are you asking everyone, everywhere, to install a new browser?

A7 - No, that wouldn't be user friendly.  Look up "JoeAndSons*2.com" in Google and you can select and read the test page even if you don't have the 'right' browser.

Typing the [name]*[number] format into your address line requires a new browser function, but we created an Asterisk prototype to show how the function could be added to any web browser.  This could be done with a browser extension or when the browser is updated.

New web browsers are delivered with software to translate Internationalized Domain Names, even if you don't realize it or ever use it, so similar development should be seen for multiplexed names.

Or you can always type the mlx--[name]--[number] native registration format into your address line.  It isn't elegant, but it is transparent and it works.

A site registered under a multiplexed name would be on line as quickly as any other site.  A directory page or database with a link to that site could be updated immediately.  Search-bots have to find and index the site before it can be displayed among search results, which may take several weeks.  Linking the new site to a frequently updated directory page would speed up the process.  As soon as the site is listed in a directory or found by your browser search function, it can be selected like any other site, by anyone, by clicking on a link.

Q8 - Is the name registration format formally standardized?

A8 - The name registration system is fully compliant with existing standards, but adds a new level.  That new level isn't standardized.  If a standard is established it may differ from the one we have tested.

Q9 - Who wants to be a 'number 2'?

A9 - To start with, the second iteration of a name would be name*1.tld.  That means we could hypothetically add over 100 million .com domain names or double the number of names under a country code TLD without making anyone a 'number 2'.

But ask yourself: if your name is Jones and jones*21.com is already registered, would you hesitate to register as jones*22.com?  There may be some perceived advantage to having a lower number, just because it is shorter.

Jones registers as a jones.tld and the rest is 'disambiguation'.  The asterisk and number aren't a value judgment any more than your telephone number is.

The proposed naming evolution returns domain names to the status they once had as simple addresses rather than property.  The site you are now reading is the first example of this naming convention in use to provide information.

Q10 - Isn't there a 'chicken and egg' problem here? Without a lot of names registered in a standardized format there's no reason to update a browser to translate them, and without general browser implementation there's no advantage in registering a name.

A10 - There was no reason to have a web browser until there was information available on the web, and no rationale for putting information on the web until people had access to browsers.  Yet now we have both. When people realized that better information access was possible, these developments became mutually supportive, which is what you might expect when people discover that Internet naming can be improved.

Since multiplexed domain names can be kept quite short you can always use the native name registration format the name*number format is a convenience, just as domain names are more convenient than typing an IP addresses.

Q11 - Won't trademark owners object to losing their monopoly on a domain name?

A11 - Trademark owners are expected, even required, to vigorously defend their marks.  This applies to those companies that can use their trademark as a domain name, but equally to the much greater number of companies that cannot.

It's understandable that companies with a registered trademark think they have a greater right to it use it as a domain name than someone else, but cybersquatting is based on the uniqueness of domain names, not the uniqueness of trademarks.  Trademarks generally aren't unique.

A trademark owner who also owns the corresponding domain name may complain if he loses his artificial monopoly, but remember that each domain name based on the same name string is still unique and as different as Smith and Smyth. 

The objective of a trademark is to eliminate confusion about the source of a product or service! Since most trademarks aren't unique we might anticipate class action opposition to the artificial and unnecessary name string monopoly in domain names.

Instead of focusing on contention, consider how additional names can benefit major trademark owners.  Imagine the largest suppliers of goods and services - think of companies like Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and McDonald's.  These three companies have thousands or tens of thousands of physical locations, but they're restricted to three domain names.  If they recognize the need for each location to have a separate telephone number, then why not separate domain names utilizing the familiar registered trademark?

Q12 - Besides making more names available, are there other advantages to evolving the naming system?

A12 - You can't hold something for ransom unless it is unique. If domain names aren't unique you reduce the rationale for name hoarding, cybersquatting, registration hijacking and inflated prices in the secondary market.

Multiplexed names solve multiple problems and combat multiple abuses.

Q13 - Shouldn't we look for a completely new system instead?

A13 - Since it has been difficult to gain acceptance for new top level domains, how can we expect more radical changes to succeed? You have to respect the experience and expectations of a world full of Internet users.  What would you do with existing Internet content if a different naming system were introduced?

Name*number identities are optional, not mandatory, and coexist with legacy names.  They comply with all existing DNS standards.  They 'do no damage' since they're backward compatible.

Q14 - I'm an 'informavore' - I use the Internet for collecting information but haven't felt the need to register my own domain name and possibly never will.  How do more domain names rock my world?

A14 - The major advantage is that by eliminating the artificial scarcity of domain names, more information should become available from more sources.

Q15 - Are multiplexed names built on the same software as Internationalized Domain Names?

A15 - No, IDN software isn't involved. Both are browser applications that can co-exist.

Modern browsers can read normal domain names and IDN names with characters such as the Swedish , and .  The browser for multiplexed names adds the alternative of reading names containing an addressing token like the asterisk.  That addition is transparent and does not interfere with legacy or IDN names.

IDNs can not use the asterisk for creating multiplexed names - they can't use the asterisk at all - but a different character such as the Euro symbol () could serve the same function as an addressing token for European Union domain names.  If you want character universality (the asterisk always meaning the same thing in names, regardless of language) additional browser software could be written to allow multiplexed IDNs.

Q16 - What business aspects apply to multiplexed names.

A16 - In late November, 2010, a local registrar listed 58 domains at an average price of nearly $280 thousand, with two listed at $1.8 million.

During the 2nd quarter of 2015 the average aftermarket sale price for the top10 .com domain names was $192,038.

Low end aftermarket prices may have come down in the past decade, but you can still find 'premium' domains at auction for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.  The last time we looked there was one available with an asking price of $1.5 million.

If you could find an appropriate name to buy for $2,000 on the secondary market (plus customary registration/renewal fees) and compare it with a multiplexed domain name hypothetically costing $25/year (plus the customary fees), it would take 80 years to realize pay-back on the secondary market name.

If we compare a high-priced name at $100k with a multiplexed name costing $50/year, pay-back would take 2,000 years.

Multiplexed domain names are covered by US Patent 8,543,732, parent applications and a grandparent Patent number 6,412,014.

Last updated December 4, 2019