There was a lot of back-and-forth going on in the domain world last week on numerous topics that can be a bit confusing for the average reader — Name Collisions and String Confusion Objections, Uniform Rapid Suspension and more. Never fear! We are here to break it down for you.

Not surprisingly, everyone’s also talking about how the New York Times got hacked, which we are following because obviously our focus is on how to keep and care for your internet brand. We’ll get to that in the roundup, part II, with some further explanation on tools available to protect your domain. But first:

An Explanation of Name Collisions

1. What is the DNS?

To understand name collisions in the context of the new gTLDs, it helps to first know a bit about the DNS:

“Short for Domain Name System (or Service or Server), [the DNS is] an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. Because domain names are alphabetic, they’re easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time you use a domain name, therefore, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name www.example.com might translate to 198.105.232.4.

The DNS system is, in fact, its own network. If one DNS server doesn’t know how to translate a particular domain name, it asks another one, and so on, until the correct IP address is returned.”

(Thank you, Webopedia, for that excellent description.)

2. How does the DNS work?

You’re already familiar with URLs that look something like blogs.forbes.com. Each dot in the URL separates a level within the DNS structure, which uses the language and metaphor of a tree’s root structure.

The “root level” is actually the top level (like where the root is connected to the trunk), and that part you don’t see in the URL. Below that is the “top-level domain” (TLD), which is the .COM part in our example.

The second-level domain extends down from the top-level domain and is the FORBES part of our example, and the BLOGS is a sub-domain–so it is part of FORBES, which is part of .COM.

3. What does this have to do with name collisions and the new TLDs?

The concern with name collisions is basically this: Some “non-delegated TLDs”, or words that are connected to a different root or no root at all, are already in private use: for example, a company using .corp for their intranet. (A very common practice, in fact. [PDF]) If that word then becomes a TLD, it’s very possible that at the “root level” there could be mistakes or overlaps, causing problems: perhaps interruptions of service, privacy breaches and more.

How often this could happen? How severe might the consequences be? Which new TLDs create the highest risk? How to mitigate or avoid such problems? These questions and more are the subject of active debate in the domain field, with plenty of opinions coming from individuals and companies that have a direct financial stake in the outcome.

So. A few weeks ago we linked to an article about ICANN releasing the results of a study that considers the likelihood and impact of name space collisions between applied-for new gTLD strings and non-delegated TLDs. Two of the strings, .home and .corp, were classified “high-risk”, and a further 20% of all applied-for TLDs were classified “uncalculated risk”, requiring another three to six months of study. They opened a time period for public comment:

4. This week’s roundup, Part I: What is everybody saying about the name collision issue?

As Comment Period On New gTLD Name Collisions Come To An End, Comments Flood Into ICANN
TheDomains.com
By Michael Berkens, August 28, 2013

Michael shares what he feels are some of the more interesting submitted comments.

Verisign, which controls the .com registry (and will inevitably lose market share with so many new TLDs becoming available), feels strongly that the safety and security risks are considerable, and they are merely the loudest of numerous voices. Here is an article that came out from Danny McPherson, Verisign’s Vice President and Chief Security Officer, the day after the ICANN report was released, and this week saw a follow-up, as Verisign does work to attempt to better calculate the potential risks involved:

New gTLD Queries at the Root & Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
CircleID.com
By Danny McPherson, Vice President and Chief Security Officer at Verisign, August 28, 2013

“Since Verisign published its second SSR report a few weeks back, recently updated with revision 1.1, we’ve been taking a deeper look at queries to the root servers that elicit “Name Error,” or NXDomain responses and figured we’d share some preliminary results.”

The Association of National Advertisers shares Verisign’s concerns:

Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) Supports NTAG Letter on Name Collision; Except For Verisign
TheDomains.com
By Michael Berkens, August 27, 2013

In a comment posted on ICANN website concerning the new gTLD name collision report, the Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) issued a consensus statement that they support the letter submitted by the New gTLD Applicant Group (NTAG) asking ICANN to allow the 20% of new gTLD applications classified as :Unknown Risk” In the Collision Report To Move Forward.

From Verisign: “We understand the urgency felt by applicants to move forward as quickly as possible to delegation. Verisign also wants the responsible and timely launch of new gTLDs, including our own and those of our applicant customers. However, we believe that these known SSR risks must be addressed and resolved, or the ICANN Board needs to communicate its rationale for ignoring the SSAC’s advice and recommendations on these important issues.”

And of course, numerous voices such as Neustar have a vested interest in the successful and quick launch of the new TLDs:

Neustar’s Proposal for New gTLD Collision Risk Mitigation
CircleID.com
By Neuster, August 28, 2013

“Neustar has a vested interest in ensuring that the domain name system is as secure and stable as possible. We have been operating top level domains (TLDs) for more than a decade, and we intend to provide the same level of service as the back-end registry provider for more than 350 applicants for the new generic TLDs that we hope will become available in the coming months. … The overwhelming majority of the “uncalculated risk” names as well as the “low risk” names pose no significant threat to the security and stability of the DNS and therefore Neustar believes these strings should proceed without delay.”

In light of all of the comments, ICANN announced its current position this week:

ICANN to begin contracting process on “uncalculated risk” strings
DomainNameWire.com
By Andrew Allemann, August 28, 2013

Applicants can start the contract process but can’t sign agreements yet.ICANN has released an update on how it’s handling potential name collisions with new top level domain names as it relates to contracting. The group will move forward with the contracting process even on strings that fall into the “uncalculated risk” bucket – but it won’t execute the contracts just yet...