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But officials call for tighter controls

Over 250,000 .us domain names have been snapped up since their launch last weekbut registrars have been criticised for their poor control over allocation.

The US Center for Democracy and Technology has written to US congress claming that thousands of names were sold off "based on flawed policies" and that Neulevel, the registrar responsible for selling the domain names, had not acted in the "public's interest".

But in the UK there is no requirement that registrars act in the public's interest and apart from Icann (www.icann.org), which is based in the US and has adopted a hands-off approach to name allocation, there is no body governing who is entitled to buy which name.

"There's no code of conduct here as there is in the US," said Ken Sorrie director of Icann approved registrar Internetters. "Registrars have to follow strict guidelines laid down by Icann but there are no such rules for registrants. There is no policing at all."

In fact, the only time any policing will be done is when there is a dispute between two people who want the same name.

Nominet has been promoting the idea of an internet code of practice (INCOP), initially to cover just UK domain names with plans to expand across all names.

"[Our] feasibility study has shown that a code of practice would need to have a much wider scope than just domain name registration in order to command the sort of support and funding required to make it independent and credible," said Lesley Cowley managing director of Nominet, the UK's Icann approved national domain registrar.

But despite flogging this idea for nearly a year, the COP is still in discussion stages.

"Although they have been discussing this for a year they are still trying to get support from members," said Internetters' Sorrie. "Which I find very disappointing."

Nominet is however against vetting applicants, seeing this "as neither essential or desirable".

"Any pre-screening would have a negative impact, which cannot be justified by the very small number of complaints [we receive]," said Cowley.

In the US, some domain names were arbitrarily reserved for undisclosed purposes, such as georgewbush.us, but others such as churches.us and music.us were not, with no one policing how they are used.

"There are no reserved names managed by Nominet. [We] operate a strict first come first served policy," added Cowley.

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