"There are standard and DNS extension specifications being developed in the IETF that can help the Domain Name System integrate better with directories," he adds. "These specifications are easy to deploy with existing DNS names and don't need the creation of a new domain namespace."
Novell's Bumpus insists his company had no intention of sidestepping standards.
"We wanted to get [the proposal] out there because ICANN had set a short deadline," Bumpus says. "Novell wants to set a baseline for interoperability based on IETF standards, and the DIF allows for that to happen."
Critics of the proposal also question what they see as the subversion of DNS for commercial purposes.
"Why is everyone looking to ICANN to rubber stamp their business models?" asks Rick Wesson, CEO of Alice's Registry in Santa Cruz, Calif., a consulting firm for ICANN-accredited registrars. "Novell wants to create an LDAP_[Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] root, but it doesn't need a TLD to do that. It can build the same infrastructure under the existing DNS domains."
For instance, Novell could encourage that directories be advertised using the LDAP Port 389, just like the Web uses Port 80. Messages from dir.novell."com could be sent on Port 389, which would be recognized as an LDAP server, NetPro's Thomas says.
Novell says establishing a TLD is important because it would guarantee the type of site that uses the .dir domain. The proposed .dir is a so-called chartered domain and would require .dir applicants to be fully compliant with LDAP 2000, an LDAP conformance test sponsored by DIF.
However, there are no LDAP 2000-compliant directories at the moment. Only Novell, Netscape, Critical Path and Oracle have promised that their directories will pass the compliance test when it is available by year-end.
"People do want to open up their back-end systems to all their constituents outside the organization," says Gordon Eubanks, CEO of directory integrator Oblix in Milpitas, Calif. "To do that, however, you have to make sure you are talking to a standard, not a brand."
Eubanks says .dir could become a standard method for directory interoperability.
Other experts also question Novell's motivation for pushing .dir.
"This is not a bad idea in and of itself," says Jamie Lewis, CEO of The Burton Group in Midvale, Utah. "Users need a unique way to identify directory trees on the Internet, and maybe a domain name is the way to do that. But right now Novell is in go-it-alone mode and has what amounts to [a proprietary] eDirectory-to-eDirectory proposal."
Lewis says Novell should take a leadership role on directory standards.
"Novell should open up the mechanism it has developed for federated directories using DNS and publish it to a standards body, then stand back and live with the results,"_he says.