The organization responsible for managing the address system on the Internet has run into a glitch, confirming advertisers' worst fears—that adding hundreds of new top-level domains to the Internet too quickly is foolhardy.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers was forced April 12 to pull offline its system for accepting applications from companies for new TLDs (dot-apple, dot-coke, dot-bank) after the system leaked to some applicants the file names and user names of other applicants. As a result, Icann also had to postpone a planned April 30 announcement of which companies have applied for new TLDs.
That's about all anyone knows about the application process that opened Jan. 12 under protest from the advertising community, worried about defensive registrations to protect their brands on the Internet.
Seeking answers, advertisers Wednesday called on Icann's president and CEO Rod Beckstrom to hire a neutral, third-party expert to investigate. The Association of National Advertisers also sent a letter to the Commerce Department's Larry Strickling, the assistant secretary for communications and information and administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. (Icann oversees the NTIA's contract to manage the assignment of IP addresses and domains.)
"It is obvious that this problem must be of a very critical nature, otherwise, Icann sure would not have injected this type of delay into its rigid timetable," Bob Liodice, the president and CEO of the ANA, wrote Beckstrom.
Last week, Icann attempted to calm the alarm over the glitch by posting a video interview between Icann's director of global media relations Brad White and Icann's chief security officer Jeff Moss.
But the interview raised more questions than answers. "We didn't find anything," said Moss, who declined to reveal how many applicants were affected by the problem. "We know what caused the issue, and we're correcting it."
As of April 25, the application window still remains closed. Icann did not immediately respond to request for comment.
"Problems can happen to everybody, but [Icann] is a group that is supposed to be taking care of some of the key functions of the Internet," said Dan Jaffe, the executive vp of the ANA. "The system was supposed to be secret. It's particularly important we get this right from the outset."
Since Icann decided to go through with its plan to add what could be thousands of new TLDs to the Internet, the largest brand names from American Express to Walmart, in addition to national and international organizations, have raised concerns about how a flood of TLDs could dilute the brands and cause consumer confusion unless companies spend millions in defensive registration. As a solution, the ANA proposed a "Do Not Sell" approach to Icann, but has yet to hear back a response.