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Why domain names need punctuation

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2012, 07:33:23 (UTC), Domain Tech

ICANN wants to know whether it should formally ban “dotless” domain names in the gTLDs for which it oversees policy.

While the Applicant Guidebook essentially prohibits registries using their new gTLDs without dots, there’s not yet a hard ban in the template Registry Agreement.

But that could change following a new ICANN public comment period.

A dotless domain might appear in a browser address bar as http://tld or, with more modern browsers, more likely just tld. A small number of ccTLDs already have this functionality.

To make it work, TLDs need to place an A record (or AAAA record for IPv6) in the root zone. This is known as an apex A record, which the Applicant Guidebook says ICANN will not permit.

The result, IANA root zone manager Kim Davies told us in July 2011, is a “default prohibition on dotless domains”.

Davies could not rule out apex A/AAAA records entirely, however. Specific requests for such functionality might be entertained, but would likely trigger an Extended Evaluation.

ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee is of the opinion that dotless gTLDs should not be permitted on various security grounds, including the fact that lots of software out there currently assumes a domain without a dot is a trusted host on the local network.

You can read the SSAC report here.

Dotless domains would also mess up browsers such as Chrome, which have integrated address/search bars; when you type “loreal” do you intend to search for the brand or visit its TLD’s web site?

But a far more intuitive, non-technical argument against dotless domains, as CentralNic’s Joe Alagna noted in his blog over the weekend, is that they do not pass the cocktail party test.

It’s hard enough trying to communicate the address “domainincite.com” across a noisy cocktail party as it is, but at least the dot immediately informs the listener that it’s a domain name.

Without dots, are we even talking about domain names any more?

The first phase of the new comment period runs until September 23. We understand that, depending on responses, a new ban on dotless domains could be introduced to the standard new gTLD registry agreement and possibly even added to legacy registry agreements in future.

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Comments (5)

  1. Joe says:

    Dotless domains are pure madness. In the past we had two dots and then the first one was dropped to make domains even shorter (www.domain.tld -> domain.tld), but still today, almost 20 years later, people refer to domain names using the www. Dropping the second dot would be a suicide (aside from being totally useless).

  2. Ms Domainer says:

    *

    Some smart person is going to build a browser that will bypass the dot all together.

    In other words, one could buy keywords from the owner of the browser, such as “loans,” and users could type “Loans” in the URL box and go directly to the site that owns the keyword, thus bypassing ICANN.

    The question, then, is: Will users adopt such a browser?

    I think it’s quite possible that the web could evolve into an entirely dotless platform.

    That could be a totally disruptive technology, essentially rendering ICANN totally toothless.

    *

  3. Jasperio Inferio says:

    Miss. Domaino,

    Domains are to the Internet like languages are to communication. All other methods are inferior. People will try to bypass domain names. All tries will be futile and inferior. Dont waste your time thinking about it.

  4. Freddy says:

    dotless TLDĀ“s is a threat to search engines. today in chrome and some other browsers you do not need any more to visit google or ask to perform your search, it happens in the browser. if the dotless TLD is performed like a keyword in the browser search it might not resolve like a domain.
    @ Kevin: in south korea there was another company selling the top keywords to companies. I do not remember the name, but they did well for a while. Not sure what happened with them.

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