It appears the Internet is getting just a tad too crowded for some. Due to rising conflict over the ownership of certain domain names and increasing congestion in the .com designation, the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC), a group of Internet experts formed to consider issues concerning the rapid growth of the Internet, has developed a plan to add seven new top-level domains and expand the system that registers Internet names. At press time, these developments were slated to be implemented by as early as October.
Standard domains include .com for commercial sites, .gov for government sites, .org for nonprofit group sites, .edu for educational sites and .mil for military sites. The seven designations that will become available are .firm for businesses, .store for companies that sell online, .web for activities related to the Web, .arts for cultural and entertainment sites, .rec for recreational sites, .info for informational sites, and .nom for sites run by individuals or families.
"This will eliminate congestion of [popular] names under .com and allow more descriptive names in the process," says Donald Heath, chair of IAHC and CEO of the Internet Society.
The IAHC's plan will also create up to 28 independent naming registrars worldwide. As a result of increased competition, lower registration costs may soon become a reality, Heath says. (Currently, Network Solutions Inc. in Herndon, Virginia, is the only company authorized to manage the existing top-level names, under an agreement with the National Science Foundation that expires next year.)
Proponents say these changes may help clarify site types and avoid conflicts between two companies of different types wanting the same online address. Moreover, the new plans call for more policies on handling these kinds of disputes through mediation and arbitration, potentially protecting small businesses from costly legal battles.
Critics, on the other hand, contend users will simply snap up all the new domains once they become available, resulting in little relief from the existing shortage. They also maintain that the new domain levels may cause confusion among Internet surfers, in effect making it difficult for people to find the sites they want.
While some experts recommend that companies register under all the new domain levels once they're available, Heath strongly advises against it. "Companies should register for what they need but don't need to register [unnecessary names] for defensive and pre-emptive reasons,' he says.
To stay apprised of new developments, visit the IAHC's Web page at //www.iahc.org
Drawing The Line
Watching your telephone expenses like a hawk so you don't pay for unnecessary employee calls or carrier charges is always a good idea. But are you also looking for signs of toll fraud? Although large businesses with bigger phone systems are more at risk, no business is immune, especially as high-tech thieves become more advanced in finding new ways to violate your business.
One way hackers commit toll fraud is by breaking into voice-mail systems and using them without authorization. Although active mailboxes that are password protected are rarely at risk, unused mailboxes are easier targets. Hackers get forwarded to the "phantom extension" from an operator and then enter a default password programmed by the manufacturer to get a dial tone, which they can then use for personal calls.
Calling cards are another area for potential abuse. Known as "shoulder surfing," thieves observe numbers that are punched in when you or your employees call from pay phones or use telephones in unsecured areas.
There are several ways to protect your business. First, never let employees forward callers to an unknown company extension, and change your personal identification numbers frequently. Also, analyze bills as soon as they arrive; excessive calls to certain areas, particularly the 809 area code in the Caribbean, is usually a sign of a problem. Also, some companies, including MCI, soon plan to release software that will allow small businesses to analyze their calling patterns to help spot potential abuses.