Updated July 15, 2024
Everyone can be a Star
(March 1, 2023)
Examples (August 1, 2023)
Questions and Answers (December 3, 2023)
Background (June 6, 2024)
For Developers (March 1, 2023)

Multiplexed Internet Domain Names

Why and How

Legacy (pre-ICANN) top-level .com now registers 155.5 million names.  That's down almost exactly 4 million registrations in a year.  ICANN's new generic TLDs have lost 22 entire top levels in the same period. (source: ntldstats.com).

Does the loss of .com registrations mean there are fewer websites?  We doubt it.  We suspect it means a lot of names registered on speculation, or as part of 'name portfolios' have been abandoned.  Unfortunately there are no good statistics on the number of registered domains that don't lead to user-relevant content.  We also suspect that the 22 missing ngTLDS were created on speculation.

One ngTLD reseller recently advertised new 'premium' domains as an 'investment opportunity'.  There are no premium names, only premium content, under whatever name. 

On 16 March last year ICANN resolved to: "continue ICANN org's ... strategy to promote the new gTLD program to prospective applicants ... to enable the introduction of new gTLDs..."  What? Why?  That's how ICANN serves ICANN rather than you.

When Internet content is used to train AI systems, domain names become less relevant.  If your content is requested, an AI system can deliver (at least part) of it without the user knowing your domain registration.  But if you want to advertise and build a brand, it's a good idea to be found where people expect to find you!

BTW - without advertising or selling anything, the strangely named site you're now reading attracted more than 400 unique visitors in June. 

Hmm - what exactly are you doing here?  

Imagine a next step - with a little effort the name multiplexing concept could eliminate the need for any top level domains!  (At least one TLD, like .ARPA, would to required to function within the Internet's technical framework, but even that TLD could be hidden from users just as the need to preface web addresses with 'www' has become superfluous.  

The first thing we learned about the web was 'content is king'.  The first thing ICANN did was try to convince us that 'domain names are king'.  That's becasue ICANN can make money on them. 

The fate of ngTLDs could be predicted from the results of ICANN's 'legacy new domain' launch.  Remember .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro?  

ICANN still insisted on launching a thousand more.  That's how ICANN serves ICANN's 'multistakeholders' rather than the Internet.

The concept explained - imagine that domain names are like towns and cities.  Some top-level domains are huge, many are small, and some are definitely ghost towns.

Each town and city has named streets and roads, but there can only be one street of any particular name in each town.  In today's domain name system, you have to own your own street to live in that city.

Now imagine that several people or companies want to live on 'the same street' in the same town.  You add house numbers to street names for each property.  It means you don't need to own your street just to live there, you own a property address on the street.

That's the simple, real life principle behind Multiplexed Domain Names.  The concept and technology are simple.  The idea isn't established for domain names the way it is for street addresses - but it provides the same advantages. 

Multiplexed Domain Names are the fastest, easiest, cheapest, most equitable, safest and most judicious way to solve complex domain name problems and provide any individual or organization with a short, appropriate, easy-to-remember domain name under their preferred domain top level.

Generic name users have shown they want .com domains, while national users often prefer country code domains.  The second largest TLD is a country code .de. 

Domain multiplexing can be applied to any top level of course, if anyone ngTLD wants it.

The international telephone network can serve any number of registered users. Why has the Internet been designed with less adaptive capacity than the old telephone network?

Have websites lost out to social media identities.  Search for the name Ford on Facebook - there are at least 100.

Ford is a dictionary term (noun and verb), a place name, a first name, a family name, the name of a theater, a company name and a trademark term with several different owners. 
- But there can be only one ford.com

The problem? The domain name system doesn't mirror reality.  Most names, even trademark terms, are not unique!

The domain name system is hierarchical, Multiplexed Names add a hierarchical level within second level names.  This extra level supports multiple use of 'the same' name without ambiguity under the same top-level domain.  Examples could include name.com, name*1.com, name*2.com, etc.

We suggest the asterisk as a multiplexing symbol since it often means 'wildcard' - potentially 'one of many'. 

Inserting the asterisk in domain names requires a small code addition to browsers.  That's because the asterisk, by design, is part of the character set that cannot be translated by the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) software that resides in every web browser. 

An IDN-based solution is quick and simple but wouldn't work well in the US, and isn't universal.  National or regional variants could support the rapid application of name multiplexing.  For example , the Euro sign, could provide a simple multiplexing token for members of the European Union: examples might include müller€1.de, martin€2.fr, and so on.  The UK could apply the pound sign £ for the same purpose. 

Universality however - the same character meaning the same thing regardless of TLD - is highly desirable for security and inter-operability.

Problems solved by Multiplexed Names include:

- Existing domain names remain unchanged; no current owners lose their domain names.

- Anyone can get any name they have a right to, under any TLD.  This respects the reality that most names, and even trademark terms, aren't globally unique.  Companies, organizations and people can identify themselves by their familiar names.

- No one can buy and warehouse a domain name to prevent it from being used, or to extract an unreasonable price.  Name speculation, which raises prices by restricting access to names, becomes less profitable.

- The large number of parked names should decrease and become generally available.

- Domain names would return to their originally intended use as addresses, not property.

- 'Premium' domains would be determined by the value of their content, not by the character string of their name.

- The confusing proliferation of additional ngTLDs could be avoided.

- While it makes most name ownership disputes superfluous, names you 'have a right to' may be restricted depending on jurisdiction or location (country code or geographic TLDs) or type of business.  Examples include .bank, which was always intended to be restrictive, as well as .brand TLDs.

- The technology is transparent and without negative impact on the familiar, existing system.  The system is backward compatible.  Prototype Multiplexed Names have run on the Internet
without problem within the current domain name system.

- They provide a platform for further innovation, opening new opportunities.

- Internet users who want their own name aren't coerced to employ social media.

- They level the Internet playing field by opening the Internet for
additional name users.

- They remove the rationale for speculating in domain names - a valueless driver of name registrations.

Modern browsers combine the address line with a search function, so they already support the concept of Multiplexed Names by promoting easy recognition/identification of different owners. 

This proposal would not grant Verisign, who run the .com registry, an unfair advantage.  User preference is the final arbiter since all top-level domains are treated equally.

Domain names as we know them were introduced in 1983.  The only major improvement since then was the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names that support characters and scripts outside standard ASCII English.  IDNs were introduced in 2003, more than 2 decades ago!

When the US Department of Commerce created ICANN they never mentioned customer benefit or user demand.  Their primary concern was: 
 "... widespread dissatisfaction about the absence of competition in domain name registration."

ICANN was built on supply side push - Internet users were never asked if they wanted thousands of new top-level domains.  The results show we didn't - increased 'competition' through additional top-level domains didn't improve the situation for users. 

The DoC also runs the US Patent and Trademark Office.  They could have said: "compete by inventing a better system" but instead ICANN was founded and populated by groups that supported launching new TLDs - to give themselves products to sell.  That's not public service.

Past performance does not indicate future success.  The largest ngTLD was .icu from December 2019 through January, 2021, with as many as
6,342,352 names registered.  Today that same ngTLG registers only about 439,745 (!)

- In November of 2017 the .loan ngTLD registered over 2 million names.  Today .loan has only 8,443 registrations (about the same as the confusingly similar .loans with 6,696).
How reliable are statistics regarding registrations;  should we
believe the reported size of the market at all?   Is it realistic that only 10 of 1116 new domains should account for 55% of all ngTLD name registrations? 

The Internet Domain Name System was never designed to provide universal naming, and that has caused problems now so ingrained that most people accepted them as inevitable.  Things as common as domain name disputes, name warehousing and auctions, and the drive to market unwanted new TLDs are consequences of a system not designed to provide universal naming.  Most people, companies and trademark holders can't use their own names under their preferred top-level domain.

The DNS is a technical system written to a technical specification.  Problems can be resolved by extending the specification; Internationalized Domain Names show it is possible.

Multiplexed Domain Names introduce a hierarchy within second level names. This makes the name-space under any top-level domain virtually unlimited.  We need a new character to identify/generate a hierarchy.  We suggest the asterisk as a multiplexing token, together with a number or letter(s).

Compare the multiplexing token to the character that designates email addresses.  MaratSade.fr could be seen as a domain name, but write it Mar@Sade.fr and you recognize it instantly as an email address. How? The distinctive @-character in the address string.

The same transparency can apply to domain names if an asterisk indicates multiple use of the same name.  Martin*2.fr and Martin*5.fr would resolve as different, separate domains under the French country code.

The asterisk indicates 'one of many'.  The final numbers (or letters) indicate 'which' of several users.

Aren't domain names ICANN's responsibility?  Can't you just add numbers, or edit the software already used to translate foreign characters?  See the answer to those and other relevant questions under: Questions and Answers  (Updated March 1, 2023).

When did it become appropriate to let organizations like ICANN define the problem, create the solution, and then universally sanction and profit from that solution without competition or independent oversight?   

Is registering your own name, under your preferred TLD, the same sort of universal right as having a telephone number?  Or do we support a privileged minority 'owning their own names' and excluding the majority.

Multiplexed Names demonstrate how the Internet domain name system can evolve to eliminate unnecessary restrictions and provide relevant names for everyone. 

Multiplexed Names are not offered as a product; we have no interest, past or present, in any domain registry, registrar, or re-seller.

The combined URL address line/search field in modern browsers is ready to support Multiplexed Domain Names through disambiguation. 

Prototype Multiplexed Domain Names following all applicable standards have been tested live over the Internet. Nothing broke.

Last updated July 15, 2024

W. Kenneth Ryan