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Dan McCullough
Guest Columnist

The Sun Rises on a Safe Internet Space for Children - KIDS.US


By Dan McCullough 
Archived 1-18-04


The new kids.us extension opened for business on June 17, 2003 with the beginning of the sunrise registration period for trademark holders. The general public began registering kids.us domains on September 4, 2003. Though the sheer number of domains registered in a particular extension is usually a good indicator of the extension's health, kids.us will be based much more on quality than quantity.  



 

Price will be a key factor in making kids.us a haven for serious developers rather than domain speculators. General registrations will cost about $100USD annually, with an additional annual content assessment fee of $250USD tacked on for active websites to make sure the proposed site is suitable for the new children's zone. So when you visit sites like WhoIs Source to check the daily registration figures, don't expect to see kids.us racking up big numbers—even though it will almost certainly have a big impact on young people's lives. 

For those new to the kids.us story, the extension is simply a sub-domain of .US, the official United States country code. For years, there has been a movement in America to provide safe Internet access for children. Measures have ranged from software solutions like Net Nanny to "parental controls" from AOL and other service providers. The problem with relying on software controls was that too much spam, pornography and other garbage still got through the safety net. 

The U.S. Congress finally decided a unique “safe zone” for children was needed to protect young surfers. A bill was drafted and finally signed into law by President Bush on December 4, 2002. The contract to administer the new namespace went to Virginia-based NeuStar, the company already in charge of the base .US Registry. 

NeuStar has run .US extremely well, and registrations are strong, with over 650,000 .US names registered since the extension debuted in April 2002. .US continues to gain market share and the awareness level of the .US namespace grows stronger each day. Fortune 500 companies are not only registering .US names but building on those addresses. www.olympic.us, www.goodyear.us, and www.westerndigital.us are just a few examples of .US sites set up by major corporations. 

Many in the domain industry believe that the rollout of kids.us in homes and classrooms across America will give the entire .US name space a huge boost in public awareness. The “Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act” (Public Law 107-317) requires the following: 

"(f) EDUCATION - The United States Department of Commerce’s NTIA shall carry out a program to publicize the availability of the new domain and to educate the parents of minors regarding the process for utilizing the new domain in combination and coordination with hardware and software technologies that provide for filtering or blocking. The program under this subsection shall be commenced not later than 30 days after the date that the new domain first becomes operational and accessible by the public."

That requirement to educate the public about kids.us is now part of the law of the land. Still questions remain as to what form that "education" will take - will it be flyers, radio, TV, the Internet? Will the marketing extend into the nation's school systems as well? To answer those questions and others, we called on NeuStar and reached Melinda Clem, Director of Business Development. 

DNJ: Congratulations, Melinda. After many years of hard work, kids.us is officially out of the starting gate. With the main issue being the protection of children from porn, spam and other dangers, can you give us an overview of the security NeuStar is incorporating into the kids.us namespace?

Melinda (NeuStar):  Thank you. NeuStar is very excited to be a part of this innovative new place for children on the Internet. To begin, we are managing the kids.us domain from our highly secure and reliable Internet registry platform. Registrars and registrants benefit equally from this near-real time registration system that is both highly secure and available. Further, we have defined numerous processes that balance technology, operational expertise, and policy to ensure only child-appropriate content appears in the kids.us space. 

DNJ: Most reasonable people understand that that no system is going to be 100% secure, and parents will be looking to fill in those gaps. Has NeuStar considered a “Neighborhood Watch” of sorts, where parents and webmasters can be the eyes and ears looking out for any websites that might abuse the kids.us namespace?

Melinda: kids.us is an important step in supplying a framework to put parents and educators at ease while children use the Internet, but it is not intended to be a replacement for supervision. Beyond our internal review processes, we are providing a simple mechanism with which any individual can contact us and report alleged infractions of the kids.us Content Policy, which is the policy that defines the content forbidden in the space. We encourage supervision and review; the domain will thrive when there are several parties committed to its success. 

DNJ: During the sunrise period limited to trademark owners, what types of registrants have you seen: “Disney-sized” corporations, smaller businesses, or individuals that hold trademarks?

Melinda: We have experienced a myriad of registrations from industries serving both children and a broader age market, and these are from companies both large and small. 

DNJ:  Most domains are never actually developed into websites. I believe, for example, that .com only has about 25 percent of its registered domains currently resolving to live websites. Looking at the higher registration cost and the restrictions placed on how kids.us may be used, one would assume that the ratio of developed sites would be extremely high. Would it be fair to say that kids.us will be characterized more by quality than quantity?

Melinda: We are optimistic that the kids.us space will have a strong “active” presence, given its unique nature and highly focused market. This is the first opportunity organizations have to reach a single age group with their website; now, they need not tailor to a broad age group within a single web presence. We agree that the success of kids.us should be measured by the quality of rewarding websites available within the space, and not the quantity as compared to the Internet as a whole.  

DNJ: Melinda, there has been much speculation about how the U.S. public school system fits into all of this. Can you share with us how kids.us is expected to be used in the school system, and what forms of education of the students and parents about kids.us is being used?

Melinda: As kids.us grows—that is, as we begin to see more and more content available in the space—we hope that educators will embrace kids.us and focus their activities and programs exclusively around content within the domain. Educators can also act as strong advocates of kids.us, and encourage content providers to use this domain that will become so vital to their curriculum. 

DNJ: With the promotion of kids.us revving up, is NeuStar expecting an uptick in awareness and registrations for the parent domain, .US?

Melinda: The positive media around kids.us, specifically the promotion of active websites, should increase the brand awareness of .US as a whole. We anticipate that more Americans will become familiar with the availability of their country code, and see it as a strong alternative to existing and cluttered domains. 

DNJ: The aftermarket for domain speculators seems to be gaining steam again after the .com crash a few years ago. Is NeuStar placing any additional restrictions on kids.us with respect to the secondary buying and selling of kids.us names, specifically for the September 2003 start of open registration?

Melinda: With ownership comes responsibility. Pursuant to the kids.us Content Policy, the registrant of any third-level kids.us domain is wholly responsible for all content within their kids.us domain. Our goal is to facilitate and enhance the namespace through active content, and we are focused on encouraging the positive creation of enriching children’s content in the domain.

DNJ: Thank you for taking time out to bring us up to date on kids.us. We would like to have you back after open registrations are underway to see how the rollout is proceeding. There seems to be a lot of excitement building around America's country code, and I'm sure everyone wishes for our new “kid-safe zone” to be a major success.

Melinda: Thank you. We are working with the children’s community and marketplace to define enhancements to kids.us, and will be announcing these over the coming months. For example, NeuStar will be launching a directory that will assist children in navigating the domain. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to discuss these and other important features and successes within kids.us.

Editor's Note: Regular updates on the kids.us space can be found at www.kids.us


Dan McCullough is a domain name dealer and developer. His sites include AirlineTickets.ws  and ConventionCenters.us  to name just two.

E-Mail us if you have any comments about Dan's article.

 

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