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January/February 2002
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Aero The Internet Top-Level Domain for the Aviation Community

With approximately 200 million-300 million people online, the Internet is, without a doubt, changing the world. Its success-and popularity-are due to its ability to offer easy access to virtually any type of information.

The growing demand for an increased quantity and variety of domain names on the Web requires the addition of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). In the business environment .com is the symbol of today's new economy. It is not, however, the sole choice on the market.

Domain names represent entities under the gTLDs: .com (commercial entities), .edu (educational institutions), .net (networks), .org (nongovernmental or nonprofit organizations), and .int (international treaty organizations). More than 25 million names are now registered under those gTLDs, with half having been registered in the past three years. Other gTLDs include .gov (government organizations) and .mil (military establishments), but those are used only in the United States.

Domain names under the two-letter country codes, otherwise known as ccTLDs, that are defined by the ISO 3166 table, represent nations. In total, there are 243 ccTLDs registries worldwide, with more than 6 million domains registered. However, only about 20 of them have more than 10,000 domain registrations.

New gTLDs Are Added to the Current Scheme

In 1993 the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) introduced the current naming convention scheme by designating NSI, Inc., as sole administrator for .com. Three domain names were registered daily at the time, compared with more than 25,000 today.

In July 2000 the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that manages Internet address and naming space, decided to introduce new gTLDs into the current scheme. After years of debate and numerous attempts, new gTLDs will hit the market at the end of 2001 (.biz, .info, and .name), which no doubt will help eliminate any future domain name shortages.

On 16 November 2000, after a thorough review of a total of 47 proposals for new suffixes, seven new Internet domain names were selected by the ICANN Board of Directors. The first major addition of Internet suffixes was approved in Marina del Rey, California, as follows:

Unsponsored (has a registry operator and is open to anyone)

Sponsored (has a sponsor and a selected registry operator and is restricted to a specific community)

Serving Business Communities with New gTLDs

The air-transport industry serves as a useful model to illustrate the need for additional gTLDs in today's business environment. Dot-coms and ccTLDs do not fully meet the present and future requirements of the aviation community. There are not enough names available to enable each company or organization to brand its image and enhance its organizational structure. In addition, the deployment of Internet wireless and next-generation Internet (IPv6) will require that additional names be allocated to individual devices. The current name space for this is insufficient.

.aero Benefits

Dot-aero allows members of the aviation community to obtain their own set of domains in the related naming space. It allows creation of a brand-coherent and restrictive naming structure for each company, organization, and application, thereby helping identify each one clearly and quickly. It enhances brand recognition, marketing, operations, and safety. It facilitates a predictable naming convention within the entire community. And it will make it possible for customers to more easily find members of the aviation community on the Web.

In addition, .aero facilitates the deployment of a variety of new applications and services once the information has been cataloged systematically and reliably. It aims to provide a differentiator label for the members of the community and, moreover, digital identifiers in the net providing for them the equivalent of a passport that enables them to travel within the aviation community.

.aero Structure

The structure that manages the .aero TLD consists of SITA SC, the sponsor, and SITA INC, the registry operator, which provides registration services in the .aero Internet domain through specialized registrars.

The Dot-Aero Council (DAC) helps to formulate policies and requirements concerning the service in order to resolve issues regarding naming eligibility and conventions. DAC represents the interests of the community and consists of Airports Council International (ACI), the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Other organizations are expected to join this initiative.

.aero Registry Service

Dot-aero enables the aviation community to ensure an efficient name registration process that will meet the community's requirements in terms of speed, security, accuracy, and reliability. It paves the way for creation of aviation community directory services that can rapidly identify any entity, system, and subsystem. It enables the collective management of the Internet address space to eliminate any addressing obstacles in the growth of e-business applications for the aviation community. It also helps in adoption of third-generation Internet mobile, e-business, and certification services to develop new business lines.

.aero Features

Charter. Dot-Aero aims to be sufficiently restricted in order to distinguish it from other TLDs and to ensure the protection of the intellectual property rights of domain name holders within the aviation community. The charter is defined in a way that clearly identifies who can register and how.

Who can apply for .aero domains? Aviation community members including but not limited to airlines; the aerospace industry; airport authorities and operators; civil aviation operators, including air traffic service providers, the air freight industry, air logistics companies, global distribution systems, computer reservation systems (CRS), educational centers and information providers, aviation clubs, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, specialized media, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

Which domain types can be registered? IATA two-character airline designators (Resolution 762); IATA three-letter location (airport) designators (Resolution 763); corporate names, trade names, and trademarks (brand names); and aviation functional names, services, and applications.

Naming Convention

Dot-aero intends to standardize the aviation community name space, thereby facilitating creation of an efficient and structured scheme for the benefit of the entire community. Names must be easy to remember and predictable, and they must meet with established industry policies and practices. Dot-aero intends to register IATA two-character airline designators in the second level domain (SLD). SITA requested exception for the use of those designators in the SLD of .aero due to ICANN's concern regarding use of the two-character (ISO 3166-Country Codes) by the new gTLDs.*

New TLDs Status

In May 2001, ICANN announced the signing of agreements for two of the new TLDs: .biz., and .info. In July 2000, .name also signed the agreement. Agreements between ICANN and sponsors for .aero, .coop, and .museum are expected to be concluded by the beginning of October.

"This is a momentous step forward in the continuing evolution of the Internet's domain name system," said Vint Cerf, chairman of the ICANN Board of Directors, upon the signing of these agreements. "However, it is just one step among many in a long process of providing consumers with the benefits of competition through a variety of domain name options and services."

SITA is seeking to sign the TLD Sponsorship Agreement with ICANN, with the blessing of the U.S. Department of Commerce, before the end of the year. SITA plans to ensure that the entire aviation community benefits from the .aero initiative and to maximize the number of registrations. The target for starting to register .aero names is the first quarter of 2002.


New gTLDs will have a dramatic effect on current market dynamics. There will be a land rush for domain names when the new suffixes become available. Some experts are predicting that the numbers will increase to more than 150 million new domains by the end of 2003.

For more information, see http://www.icann.org/tlds.

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