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 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 all the details still haven't 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 the likes of .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 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.

On its Web site, OnlineNIC does advise prospective customers that there are no assurances 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 promised, though, that it will return the registration fees charged to users if their domain-name requests can't be fulfilled.

In December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning about preregistration offers related to the upcoming new Internet domains. The FTC recommended avoiding any preregistration service that said it could guarantee domain names or provide preferential treatment in assigning them.

This story, "ICANN warns against new domain preregistrations" was originally published by Computerworld.

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