Questions and Answers
- Isn't ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers) responsible for domain names?
- The U.S. Department of Commerce
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
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.
- There are 145 million .com names registered
(research.domaintools.com). Obviously it hasn't been hard to
create new names. What's the problem?
- 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
- Does this require a new naming system?
- 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
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.
- Don't search engines make this unnecessary?
- 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
- 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?
- 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.
already provide a list of potential domains to select from as
you type, based on web site page names.
- Why not edit the software that translates Internationalized
Domain Names to include the asterisk or some other token
- Translation of the same non-LDH ASCII character differs
depending on the character's environment. Swedish character
'ä' is translated differently in domain names 'bä.se',
'bär.se' and 'bärs.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
- Are you asking everyone, everywhere, to install a new
- 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
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.
- Is the name registration format formally standardized?
- 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.
- Who wants to be a 'number 2'?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Won't trademark owners object to losing their monopoly on a
- 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
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?
- Besides making more names available, are there other
advantages to evolving the naming system?
- 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
- Shouldn't we look for a completely new system instead?
- 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
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
- 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?
- The major advantage is that by eliminating the artificial
scarcity of domain names, more information should become
available from more sources.
- Are multiplexed names built on the same software as
Internationalized Domain Names?
- 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 Å, Ä and Ö. 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.
- What business aspects apply to multiplexed names.
- 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
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