Updated May the 4th, 2023
Everyone can be a Star
(March 1, 2023)
Examples (March 1, 2023)
Questions and Answers (March 1, 2023)
Background (March 1, 2023)
For Developers (March 1, 2023)

Multiplexed Internet Domain Names

Why and How

The ICANN experiment has been a frustrating failure.  Legacy (pre-ICANN) top-level domain .com alone registers almost 160 million names.  One thousand one hundred forty eight (1,148) of ICANN's new generic TLDs register only 30.9 million, a number that has fallen from 35.5 million in September of 2020. 

On 16 March, 2023, ICANN resolved to: "continue ICANN org's ... strategy to promote the new gTLD program to prospective applicants ... to enable the introduction of new gTLDs..."

The .com TLD is just short of 160 million registrations, and has been since February, 2022.  'Just short' means by 1 million names or fewer.

Registration figures for ICANN's new top levels have flat-lined this year although 21 new generic top-level domains have entered general availability since peak registration in September, 2020. 

Speculation fueled the growth of .com while the ngTLDs were created by ICANN to create sales objects.  Neither approach has scaled successfully and neither supports internet users.

The first thing we learned about the web was 'content is king'.  The first thing ICANN did was replace that with 'domain names are king'.  

ICANN's new top-level domains met their first 'focus group' of customers when a handful of new top levels arrived early this century.  After they failed, ICANN persisted in launching a thousand more.  ICANN's ngTLDs still account for only 7.8% of all Internet name registrations. 

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 today, 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 need 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 want .com domains and national users often prefer country code domains, but domain multiplexing can be applied equally to any top level.

If there are almost 160 million .com names registered; is there any need for another 160 million?   How many telephone numbers have registered users?  Perhaps websites have lost out to social media identities.  Search for the name Ford on Facebook - there are about 100.

Müller is the most common surname in Germany, but there can be only one müller.de
Martin is the most common surname in France,
but there can be only one martin.fr
Silva is the most common surname in Brazil, but there can be only one silva.br
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

Do you see the problem in this pattern?

Most names, and 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 is universally known and 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 lives in every web browser. 

An alternative, IDN-based solution is quick and simple but wouldn't work as easily in the US, and isn't universal.  National or regional variants could facilitate 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.

- '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 development, opening new opportunities.

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

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

The disadvantages include removing the rationale for speculating in domain names - but for internet users that's a valueless driver of name registrations.

Modern browsers that combine the address line with a search function 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, that's 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, and increased competition through additional top-level domains didn't improve the situation. 

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 a product to sell.  That's not public service.

ICANN's new generic top-level domains: fiasco and farce; fraud?

Legacy .com registrations remain stuck below 160 million, so how have ICANN's new generic top-level domains worked out? 

Not real well!

- The ngTLD roll-out began in 2014.  Thirty-eight percent of the ngTLDs followed by ntldstats.com have fewer than 100 registered names, and twenty-four percent had only 1 registered name.  What's the point?  Only 6 of 1154 ngTLDs register over 1 million names today and the largest has fallen from 6.23 million to below 3.7 million today. 

- In November of 2017 the .loan ngTLD registered over 2 million names.  Today .loan has fallen to only 7,538 registrations.
- The ngTLD-supporting community has been silent about ngTLD registration data.  What conclusions should we draw about the support community?

Who registered all the 'expendable' domain names, and why?  Were registries running a 'fear of missing out' ploy, hoping it would lead to additional domain registrations, or was it perhaps an attempt to create a false secondary market with inflated prices?  Any well financed registry can pad registration figures to demonstrate its top-level domain is popular.
Since ICANN earns 18 cents per registration, it is not in ICANN's interest to question the validity of registration claims.


A follow-up question: how reliable are any registry statistics regarding registrations; can we
believe the reported size of the market at all?   Is it realistic that only 10 among 1152 new domains should account for 52.2% of all ngTLD name registrations?

The new TLDs aren't alone in presenting questionable user value.  The ccTLD count presented in VeriSign's quarterly Domain Name Brief now eliminates .
tk, .cf, .ga, .gq and .ml.  They have been removed for presenting 'unbelievable' figures. 

Was this the kind of 'smoke and mirrors' competition envisioned by the Department of Commerce when it sanctioned ICANN?  ICANN's multi-stakeholder governance has not prevented this abuse.  Are problems with ICANN's domain names driving the growth of social media with different naming (and accountability)  standards?

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. 

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 domain.

The asterisk is often used as a wild card character indicating 'one of many'.  The final numbers (or letters) indicates 'which' of several users of the same name.

Technically, names are registered in a set format and translated by a simple edge application to include the multiplexing token. This is similar to, but not the same as, the system used to generate foreign characters and scripts in Internationalized Domain Names.

For Europe, the € character can be used with existing IDN translation in the browser.

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 that solution without competition or independent oversight?   

Multiplexed Names nested with Internationalized Names would make Universalized names available to anyone, anywhere, in any language or script - under their country code, legacy, or preferred new generic top-level domain.

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.

Registering your own domain name isn't a problem when Everyone can be a Star. (Updated March 1, 2023)

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 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 May the 4th, 2023

W. Kenneth Ryan