Many of us had gotten used to dialing certain area codes in our own state and outside it. Now, we have to get used to new ones.

Why? Because, eventually, all the possible combinations for phone numbers in many area codes were used up.

A similar problem is being experienced on the Internet. All the “good” domain names have already been taken or are trademarked by somebody. This is similar to the problem on AOL, where you have to come up with a ridiculous screen name in order to make it unique from the other 30 million names already registered.

Here's an example that shows how the Domain Name System (DNS) works. When you type in the address of our Web site, monksofadoration.org, a lookup is automatically done to find its corresponding address, which is 152.160.53.219.

Behind the scenes is something similar to the phone book that lists domain names and their corresponding address. The DNS was introduced in 1985 with seven generic domain extensions — including .com for commercial organizations, .net for network providers, .org for not-for profit organizations and .mil for the military.

In addition, there were two-letter domain extensions, such as .jp (Japan), .uk (United Kingdom), and .fr (France), to identify geographical locations. One of the goals of these original extensions was to make the Internet more navigable by separating addresses into categories based on the registering organization or individual.

In 1998 a nonprofit corporation was set up called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to decide DNS policy.

On Nov. 16, 2000, ICANN approved seven new generic domain extensions for use on the Internet. They are: .biz, .info, .name, .pro, .aero, .coop and .museum. They are expected to be available for use by the end of 2001 and will not be released all at once. It is the first major expansion of the domain space ever undertaken. Let's look at what these new extensions mean.

Dot-biz sites will specifically target commercial organizations by requiring registrants to certify they will use the site for “legitimate commercial use.” This makes it a little more stringent than the dotcom extension already being used.

Dot-info sites will provide general information and are intended for both companies and individuals.

Dot-name sites allow individuals to have personal Web addresses. An example would be “john.smith.name”. Only two names are allowed before the .name ending. A British company will be registering these type of domain names.

Dot-pro is intended for use exclusively by lawyers, doctors and accountants. An example could be “johnsmith.law.pro”. Like .name above, only two names are allowed before the .pro ending. To register proof of professional credentials will be required.

Dot-aero sites are reserved for “legitimate members of the air transport industry and civil aviation sector,” which includes airlines, airports and related industries. An example for JFK airport in New York could be “arrivals.jfk.aero”. An international telecommunications society headquartered in France will be overseeing the use of this extension.

Dot-coop sites are reserved for “business cooperatives,” such as credit unions and rural electric cooperatives. Initially, .coops must be members of the National Cooperative Business Association.

Dot-museum is intended as a sign of authenticity to assure users that sources of information about cultural and scientific heritage are verifiable. The Museum Domain Management Association, a nonprofit trade association founded by the International Council of Museums and the J. Paul Getty Trust, will manage this extension.

Although policies may change, the existing proposals call for these new domain names to be registered on a first-come, first-served basis, with a kickoff period during which accumulated registration requests will be processed in random order.

This will be done to ensure no registrant or registrar has an unfair advantage. If you are thinking of registering for one of these new extensions, be sure to read more about it at newdomains.networksolutions.com/gtld/tm_landingpage.jsp.

Not everybody agrees with ICANN's system of deploying new extensions. New.net has already introduced 30 new domain name extensions! How? They have developed proprietary technology that allows their domain-naming system to exist alongside the traditional naming systems currently in use on the Internet. Right now, almost 54 million Internet users have access to these new domains either through their Internet service provider or special software one can download from New.net. They have already partnered with some providers, such as EarthLink, @Home and Prodigy. New.net is a commercial entity seeking to promote a collection of domain names unilaterally established without participating in the Internet community's ICANN consensus process.

How might this affect you? Widespread acceptance of New.net's system will cause domain-name conflicts. This would be comparable to dialing a telephone number correctly and sometimes reaching one person and sometimes another. This would seriously undermine confidence in the reliability of the Internet to users and potential users around the world. For more information, go to ICANN's web site at icann.com and select “A Unique, Authoritative Root for the DNS.”

Brother John Raymond, co-founder of the Monks of Adoration, writes from Venice, Florida.