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Rush is on for custom domain name suffixes

The future operator of .sport, for instance, could sell as many as 200,000 or more Web addresses - hockey.sport, bethesda.sport or washingtoncapitals.sport - for wholesale prices ranging from $6 to $50 to such companies as Go Daddy. These firms then re-sell the Web sites to consumers for higher prices. McCarthy also said ICANN is debating whether the domain operators could sell Web addresses directly to the consumer themselves.

Ron Andruff, president and chief executive of dotSport LLC, a New York-based outfit, said he believes more users will find niche interests and communities more easily with the new addresses. "Google and Bing are not in business of helping you find what you are looking for," he said. "They're in the business of generating revenue from those willing to bid the highest to get on their search results page."

Scott Seitz, the CEO of DotGay LLC, wants to build a universe of sites - he expects 300,000 initially - with addresses such as lawyers.gay, aids.gay, hotels.gay or communitycenter.gay. He has the backing of several prominent gays rights groups including Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Seitz, who is gay, said the simple idea of operating the domain devoted to the gay movement exerts its own pressures. "I have a responsibility, and I am in awe of that," said Seitz, adding that he and his business partners intend on donating two-thirds of their revenue to various social causes. "I buried 40 friends in 18 months [who died from complications related to HIV]. Having .gay is scary, it could be crazy. I've already told people to get steel doors and window bars for security to protect against anti-gay organizations that wouldn't want dot-gay to happen."

For people who might propose controversial domains - such as .nazi, which ICANN officials have worried about - approval will be based on the applicant's identity and intentions, and on the grounds of "morality and public order." Such companies as Canon or IBM will be given priority for .canon or .ibm, and so will municipalities for such domains as .paris or .nyc.

Some people are chasing after multiple domains. Antony Van Couvering, the chief executive of Minds + Machines, a California-based registry company, is working with various partners to pursue not only .eco (with the backing of Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection), but a slew of others, including .gay, .nyc, and, in the interest of capturing even the most far-flung audiences, .zulu - for South Africa's largest ethnic population. It's the .eco domain that will be competitive, though. Jacob Malthouse, a former ICANN official, formed a Vancouver-based company that is also going after .eco; his venture has the support of Gorbachev's Green Cross International.

Other entrepreneurs may bump up against corporate titans and trademark issues. Constantine Roussos, of Los Angeles, has spent years working on his application for .music. Roussos, a 34-year-old musician whose family owns real estate in Cyprus, envisions .music as the industry's trusted inventory of Web sites operated by musicians, managers, studios, promoters, composers and so on. For example, only artists with verifiable professional identities could create sites such as queen.music or pink.music.

Roussos believes the .music domain will help Internet users easily connect to their favorite band's real Web site by typing the name of the band followed by .music on their Web browser; and will help musicians sell their music directly to consumers. Many famous bands - Queen, Kiss, the Eagles - don't own their own .com Web sites because their names use common words, he lamented.

The music industry, however, has its concerns about .music. In early January, the Recording Industry Association of America wrote a letter to ICANN's board of directors, expressing fear that a .music domain might make musicians more vulnerable to piracy and trademark infringement.

But Roussos believes his model for .music might help the music industry. "When you're searching for Queen and type it into Google, will your results be the Queen of England or the Queen of Denmark?" he asked. "But if you go to queen.music, you know it's the band. It's faster. And it'll drive traffic and more money to the artist."

shapirai@washpost.com


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