Anybody who's spent more than five minutes on the Internet knows that our Top-Level Domains are getting crowded. TLDs are the handful of abbreviations that follow the ubiquitous "dot" in Internet addresses, such as .gov, .net, .edu and the overpopulated .com.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, the entity that stirs this alphabet soup, is weighing proposals to create new TLDs, which is why the world's airlines, acting through IATA, proposed to establish a .travel domain.

We commend IATA for taking the initiative on this matter and for submitting a comprehensive and thoroughly documented plan. It looks like they spent months working on it -- in secret.

IATA, which oversees agency accreditation, settlement, and other services all over the world, understandably sees itself as "uniquely positioned" to administer the domain and to screen applicants seeking to do business there, on a "nonexclusionary" basis. Still, travel folk who flinch when an airline says "trust me" will note the presence of words like "fitness" and "accreditation" in IATA's description of its proposed application process.

IATA said it intends to create an advisory committee to include "a broad range of representatives," including consumer groups. Guidelines would be established to conform with trademark and copyright laws and prohibit cyber-squatting. Geographic designations would prevent confusion in the global village, thus Jazz Tours in Toronto would be jazztours.ca.travel, whereas an unrelated Jazz Tours in Liverpool could be jazztours.uk.travel.

It's all been very carefully thought out.

And if this goes through, travel agents, hotels, car rental companies, cruise lines, tour operators -- in a word, all travel marketers -- will be looking at yet another airline-invented, airline-administered turnstile, another reminder that you don't wag the dog.

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