The .eu top-level domain is getting closer to becoming a reality with a report finalised in the European Council and the first official report on this matter expected soon from the European Parliament. If all goes according to plan, the new domain will go live early next year.
The European Council has agreed on the proposal for a .eu TLD and that it would "take the necessary measures to ensure that the .eu top level domain would be available to users as soon as possible". The report itself is still being typed up so we have been unable to run through it in depth yet.
Then, late tomorrow night there will be a vote in the European Parliament on the TLD which will lead to the first official report (i.e. not simply a consultative report) being produced.
The objective, according to main advisor to the EC's telecommunications arm, Christopher Wilkinson, is to reach final agreement by July to September. It has been a long time in coming, so why the delay?
"There have been several main issues," he told us. "How to make sure of its integrity and not suffer from cybersquatting problems and domain disputes. I think Whitehouse.com [a high-profile case in which the domain was registered and is still run by a porn company] has hit a political raw nerve."
So what has been the upshot of numerous consultations within the EU? "There will be a sunrise period for 'prior rights' which in effect means trademarks and company names. Then there will be an additional sunrise period for public entities, geographical and geo-political names."
The Commission will now table time in the next few weeks to push the proposal further, Wilkinson told us.
What of domain name resolution policy? Will the EU follow ICANN/WIPO's flawed UDRP approach? "I think WIPO's UDRP will initially be used as a default but then it may evolve in two directions. First the terms and conditions may be improved - there are alternative views on this. And secondly, WIPO is looking at new categories of names."
So when will .eu be finally available? "I have tried to forecast this in the past - with not much success. But it should be there by early next year. If there is a clear-cut choice - a decent consortium with a good proposal and member states are consulted and are happy, we could issue a licence quite quickly."
And what of ICANN? "We are working with ICANN - I've been in touch with them for the last couple of years. They have made a bold resolution that it is fine subject to there being satisfactory contracts. And there is a standard contract coming out [of all previous ICANN arguments/discussions/dealings] so the groundwork has been done."
So if .eu isn't available by next year, for once it will be the political process rather than ICANN to blame. "The technical side will not be the cause of a major delay. In fact, certain member states do it rather better than the US, where the only port of call is Verisign. Over here we have several technical solutions [to choose from]."
So there you have it, .eu looks like it will finally appear in 2002. Not quite the speed of the Internet but not bad for politicians. ®