Internet oversight group nixes ‘travel’ plan

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Internet’s key oversight agency has rejected a proposed search service to help guide people who mistype “.travel” Web addresses or seek nonexistent ones.

The decision comes after a review panel warned that the proposal could hinder spam filters and other applications that rely on the Internet’s Domain Name System, the directories crucial for finding Web sites and sending e-mail.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said it agreed the proposal “creates a reasonable risk of a meaningful adverse effect on security and stability.” The decision was made during a teleconference last week and announced Wednesday.

As proposed by Tralliance Corp., which operates “.travel,” users who type a “.travel” name that does not exist would get a Web page inviting them to register for the name, provided their company or organization belongs to one of the 20 eligible travel industry sectors, such as hotels, airlines and restaurants. Tralliance would make money on each new registration.

A separate review panel had earlier recommended the proposal’s rejection, saying Tralliance’s “search.travel” appeared no different from the Site Finder service that VeriSign Inc. had introduced for “.com” and “.net” and withdrew under pressure.

But unlike Site Finder, which also drew complaints that a company was trying to profit off the popularity of “.com,” the concerns with “.travel” have been strictly technical. Tralliance argues that there are far fewer “.travel” sites — about 20,000 compared with some 59 million for “.com” — and thus they are less central to the Internet’s infrastructure.

A second review panel took a closer look and wasn’t persuaded.

It concluded that even though the service was meant to help guide Web traffic, its effects could not be limited to the Web’s technical protocol, HTTP. As a result, that panel said, misaddressed mail could get delayed and spam filters could become less effective. Some spam filters use the Domain Name System to check whether a sender’s e-mail address is legitimate.

The panel said the service won’t destroy the Internet, but “will impair the Internet’s existing portfolio of applications, and complicate the development and implementation of new services,” including domain names using non-English characters.

Tralliance officials did not immediately respond to e-mail and phone requests for comment.

The “.travel” domain launched last year, joining more than 250 Internet suffixes. Names of cities, national parks and other landmarks under “.travel” will be open for general registration next year.