FTC to ICANN: New Domain Suffixes Will ‘Undermine’ the Internet

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If the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has its way, .xxx domains are just the beginning: Starting January 12, organizations will be able to apply for new domain suffixes that include almost any word or phrase (such as .techland or .time instead of the more familiar .com). Well, unless the FTC manages to convince the organization otherwise.

Following hearings with Washington politicians last week–including one with the Congressional Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in which Representative Greg Walden, chairman of the subcommittee, told ICANN representatives “I don’t think [this idea] is ready for prime time”–the Federal Trade Commission has sent a letter to ICANN warning that expanding domain suffixes could “pose a significant threat to consumers and undermine consumer confidence in the Internet.”

(MORE: Are You Ready for .XXX Action?)

The letter, sent Friday to ICANN chairman Dr. Stephen Crocker and president Rod Beckstrom, warns that making new domain endings available “has the potential to magnify both the abuse of the domain name system and the corresponding challenges we encounter in tracking down Internet fraudsters.” The concern is that brands may find other bodies buying up a domain relating to their business–another person buying “cocacola.drink,” for example–thereby increasing the possibility for fraudulent websites exponentially, for putting users at risk as a result.

ICANN has previously argued against this idea, saying that it would only release new domains that “meet stringent technical and financial criteria,” cutting down on any potential for misuse. As an international non-profit, the FTC has no official say over the decisions of ICANN, and cannot prevent the organization from meeting its January 12 deadline for opening applications for new domains, but it’ll be interesting to see if either the governmental hearings or official letter manage to change any minds.

MORE: Custom Domain Suffixes Are Coming: Here’s What You Need to Know

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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