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The rush is on for digital identity

WHEN YOU were born, your parents took care of registering your name. But you just may want to do it all over again. Sure, that birth certificate established your offline identity once and for all, but what about your digital identity? And while people can find you pretty easily with a street address or telephone listing, how do they find you in cyberspace?

This fall, some of those questions will be answered. That is when 'name' arrives, a new Internet domain name that would let online citizens create a permanent electronic identity that would be as unique as their terrestrial one. 'Most people would rather have their own name than an irrelevant series of names and numbers to identify them, said David Hirschler, vice president of global marketing for http://register.com, a site that offers domain name registrations.

Name is one of seven new domain names recently created by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. That is the official governing body that created the original three domain available to public:.com, .net and .org. But simple or common names followed by any of those original suffixes are almost all taken, and ICANN has been under substantial pressure to create new cyberterritory. So for the past year ICANN has been rolling out seven additional domains though critics say that even the new ones won't be enough.

'Personalization is very strong right now and will get more so as the year 2001 comes to a close. We see this growing in momentum and popularity,'said Divane Brandis, vice president of marketing for www.aplus.net, a San Diego service provider that also operates www.Names4Ever.com.

Designed exclusively for individuals, this new domain is a two-dot one. A typical Web URL address could be marry.jones.name or jones.marry.name. The extra dot allows more combinations of first and last names. By early 2002, e-mail addresses will be available, for a yet undetermined fee. A typical e-mail address would be maryjones.name. But more important than the vanity of having your name up in lights, or at least in pixels, is the underlying series of numbers that will establish your digital identity. Since these are 'top level' domains, each comes with its own universal address, a unique series of numbers called an Internet protocol, that allows you to be found by any computer, anywhere. This digital address can be used to house your Web site, collect your e0mail and allow you to store secure personal files.

'These will be the world's first fully functional domain names,' said Andrew Tsai, chief executive of Global Name in London, which was awarded an exclusive contract by ICANN to operate the data base and administer the addresses for the .name domains. Starting in September , it will accept applications for .name addresses from the approximately 80 approved registrars worldwide who compete by price and service packages. That's why many who missed the dot-com land grab of the 1990s are lining up to get their own piece of the new digital real estate.

Registration of personal domain names using the .com suffix has increased, but the availability is limited when it comes to common last names. Secondary markets that auction off these names are popping up on the Web, along with a new site that will monitor the name you desire and let you know if someone forgets to pay the renewal fee.


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