The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is focusing on ten new top-level domains, pending next week's vote by its board of directors.

ICANN recently released its analysis of the 191 proposed top-level domains. The report identifies the ten top-level domains that are the strongest contenders. They include: .biz, .web, .nom, .per, .i, .name, .co-op, .union, .air and .geo. Two other domains – .museum and .health – remain in the running, but ICANN has outlined significant concerns with these proposals.

Eliminated from the process were several proposals that would segregate Web content for children and adults with top-level domains including .kids and .xxx. ICANN also rejected proposals for restricted commercial domains such as .fin for financial institutions, .travel for air transport companies and .pro for professionals.

In a surprise move, ICANN also scrapped proposals for telephony-related domains, including .tel and .one, in deference to a request from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU sent a letter to ICANN on November 1, saying that the intersection between telephone numbering and the Domain Name System (DNS) is complex and that it requires more technical analysis.

ICANN also ruled out a proposal from Novell for a .dir domain for directory services information, citing concerns that Novell's proposal did not consider directory systems from competing vendors.

ICANN watchers criticized its report for failing to clarify the technical and financial criteria used to whittle down the proposals.

"ICANN does not give a standard to which technical applications should rise, yet it is shooting certain applications down for being without technical merit," says Mikki Barry, president of the Domain Name Rights Coalition.

"ICANN is supposed to be focusing on the technical issues of the Internet, not reviewing business models," Barry adds. "ICANN has proven that it can't keep its own finances in line. How can it tell another company that their funding is inadequate?"

Barry is also concerned that ICANN has allowed inadequate time for people to review its 100-plus pages of findings prior to next week's vote.

"ICANN should have given people at least 90 days to review this report."

She also objects to a recent revelation that ICANN will not allow its recently elected at-large board members to vote on the new top-level domains. Instead, the decision will be made by its current board of directors, including appointed chair Esther Dyson.

In early October, ICANN received 44 valid proposals from companies and consortia seeking to become registries of new top-level domains. Each proposal was accompanied by a $50,000 application fee. Many of the proposals offered multiple top-level domains, resulting in a pool of 191 options from which ICANN can choose.

ICANN's staff reviewed the technical, business and financial strength of the proposals, and the results of that review were posted on its Web site early Friday morning.

In other domain-name news, several of the world's large domain registrars this week began selling multilingual names, despite a recommendation from the Internet Society that this initiative be delayed because it may harm the stability of the Internet's DNS.

VeriSign Global Registry Services now accepts domain names in Chinese, Japanese and Korean for the .com, .net and .org domains. VeriSign's Network Solutions subsidiary is among 22 registrars selling the names. Buyers are expected to be multinational corporations looking to retain their company and product names in Asian languages.

VeriSign officials moved forward with the multilingual test bed, despite concerns from the Internet Society, which oversees the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Architecture Board. The Internet Society asked that the multilingual test bed be delayed until the Internet Engineering Task Force can develop a proposed standard for internationalized domain names.