ICANN Warns Against Preregistering Domain Names

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

Brett LaGrande, a spokesman for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Marina del Rey, Calif., said companies can't be guaranteed the use of domain names that they preregister because not all the details have been finalized for the planned addition of the new domains chosen last fall by the organization'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 .biz, .aero, .info and .pro, probably won't be finalized until the fall.

For now, ICANN's official position is that "no one has been authorized 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 last week 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.

Registrars that are accepting preregistrations for new TLDs include Register.com Inc. in New York, Catalog.com Inc. in Plano, Texas, and DomainZoo.com Inc. in Tucson, Ariz.

On its Web site, OnlineNIC does advise prospective customers that there is no assurance of getting rights to a specific domain name through the preregistration process. "Your TLD request is not exclusive . . . nor is there any guarantee that you will be able to register the domain name that you requested," the advisory states.

Multiple requests for a domain name may be submitted to different registrars operating similar preregistration programs, OnlineNIC said. The company said it will return the registration fees charged to users if their domain name requests can't be fulfilled.

This story, "ICANN Warns Against Preregistering Domain Names" was originally published by Computerworld.

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