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'Pointless' domain living on borrowed time

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The second level domain .net.uk may be dead before Christmas due to underuse, thanks to the changing Internet world.

A recent subcommittee of Nominet's Policy Advisory Board (PAB) concluded that it had outgrown its use and should be shut down to new applicants, with existing domains maintained until renewal, and then removed forever from the Internet.

That conclusion was not accepted last week by the PAB main committee, and the subcommittee was asked to look again at how the domain could be opened up but chartered so its use remained relevant. However subcommittee chairman Clive Feather remains sceptical. "Just because that was the case with .net [the top-level domain], that doesn't mean it's right," he told us.

Chairman of the PAB Peter Gradwell told us that it had considered the large volume of feedback that the subcommittee's conclusions had sparked and that it remained "unsure" whether the domain's rules could be changed to become more relevant while remaining strongly chartered.

It is difficult to see how the subcommittee could reach a different conclusion however. It has argued that thanks to the changing world of network providers and ISPs (where some "ISPs" are no more than branded services), it was almost impossible to define what was an ISP and hence the .net.uk domain has no practical use.

To open it up would put it on a par with .co.uk domains - a pointless exercise that would simply entail more protective registering and domain arbitration. The subcommittee also pointed to Nominet's own policy for the creation of SLDs. One states: "No SLD shall be created if its uses and functions are wholly or substantially encompassed by the charter of any single existing SLD."

Another: "A new SLD shall not normally be permitted where a new SLD with a wider charter would better serve the interests of the Internet Community." Hence it argues that the .net.uk should be confined to the online dustbin of history.

The figures also back up this point of view. There are currently only about 540 .net.uk domains. The largest number registered in one month was just 29 in May 1997. Last month (September 2002) there were five. This compares to around 50,000 .co.uk domains registered per month.

Nevertheless, one PAB member (who was not present at the subcommittee meeting) has argued forcefully that the .net.uk can be made to work. Mr Feather told us he has just sent out emails to arrange a new subcommittee meeting. That meeting will produce a report for the next PAB meeting on 4 December 2002.

If the report continues to argue for the demise of the net.uk domain and the PAB agrees, a meeting of Nominet's Council of Mangement could rule on it later that same month and the second-level domain will be dead in time for Christmas. ®

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