The '.aero' suffix is ready for take off


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has signed a contract with the Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA), clearing the way for the '.aero' addressing suffix to take its place in the Internet's worldwide naming system. The generic top-level domain (gTLD) will be set aside for airlines and other entities directly involved in the air travel industry. With the contractual issues resolved, SITA will begin selling '.aero' domain names in March.

The '.aero' gTLD was one of seven approved by ICANN in November 2000 to be added to the then-existing, publicly available '.com', '.net' and '.org'. The others are '.biz' and '.info' - the first of the new batch of domains to become available - as well as '.coop', '.name' and '.pro'. The '.pro' gTLD will be the last of this batch to be introduced.

The contract for managing '.aero' names was won by SITA, an international air transport IT services provider. It is the first time that a specific industry group has controlled its own domain and it will be managed on a not-for-profit basis.

According to ICANN's sponsorship agreement, the '.aero' names will be "restricted to people, entities and government agencies which (i) provide for and support the efficient, safe and secure transport of people and cargo by air, and (ii) facilitate or perform the necessary transactions to transport people and cargo by air." The agreement features a list of examples, including airlines, airport authorities, charter and private aircraft operators, and computer reservations systems. Anyone can challenge a registration as being in breach of the policy. If the challenge is successful, the registration will be cancelled, not transferred.

There have been objections from those who thought that '.aero' should be opened to the air travel community, including passengers. Critics point out that ICANN rejected a proposal for a '.travel' domain, with one of its reasons being that the proposal was too industry focused.

The comparatively small market for '.aero' names should make SITA's introduction of the domain less challenging, or at least less likely to face media scrutiny, than was the case with the recent high-profile introductions of '.biz' and '.info' (see '.info' registrations suffer technical problems and Disputed '.biz' domain names are activated).

Jon Fell, Masons, London

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