The SpamHaus Project wants the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to approve its application to launch a ".mail" top-level internet domain (TLD) and provide a trusted-sender system for email. Technically the plans should be fairly straightforward, but political issues are another matter.
One of ten applications for new TLDs, .mail would act as a "reputation service", providing a way for email recipients to ensure that incoming mail is sent by organisations that agree to abide by certain anti-spam mailing practices. The application will be subject to ICANN determining that it conforms to certain criteria set out for "sponsored TLDs".
Companies would pay an annual fee likely to be over $2,000 to register a .mail address. The address would take the form of their existing email domain, with .mail appended to the end.
There's no guarantee that .mail will be approved by ICANN, which is looking for a quite specific type of TLD in the current round of applications. ICANN has in the past declined applications when it thought the same service could be offered in a second-level domain.
In November 2000, an application from SRI International to map latitude and longitude into a proposed ".geo" TLD was rejected as the board considered that the same service could be offered at the second level, at .geo.com for example.
In addition, SpamHaus's suggestion to chain .mail to existing TLDs (eg, .com.mail) could be an issue. Existing ICANN TLD operators have to promise to reserve all TLD strings at the second level, .com.info or .uk.biz for example, for non-use.
SpamHaus probably won't have many hurdles from a technical stability standpoint. The organisation is tapping VeriSign, which has more experience operating TLDs than any other company, to provide the back-end infrastructure.
Politically, it could be a different matter. SpamHaus's views on what constitutes spam, like those of most spam fighters, do not completely tally with those of the US government, under whose authority ICANN operates.
SpamHaus was a vocal opponent of the CAN-SPAM Act, which legalized but regulated the practice of sending bulk unsolicited commercial email. Under .mail, a company could be compliant with CAN-SPAM, but it would not be able to register a .mail address.