The mess that is the top-level internet domain name administration took another step backwards this week with the abandonment by the International Ad-Hoc Committee (IAHC) of the part of its plan that limits the numbers of registrars of Top- Level Domain names (TLDs) to 28, and their choice by lottery. The move was expected in internet circles, and IAHC member David Crocker said most IAHC members found it [the plan] offensive, but couldn’t think of anything else. Crocker was speaking at Networld+Interop in Las Vegas during a session addressing the challenge of domain name administration. Crocker said the IAHC would recommend registrars select a sub-committee among themselves, but there would be no limit on their number. There is likely to be hundreds, if not more, companies applying to administer the seven new top-levels names the IAHC has proposed: .firm, .store, .web, .arts, .rec, .info and .nom. Crocker was on a panel with some of the IAHC’s fiercest critics, among them the chief executive of Network Solutions Inc, Gabe Battista, the company that has the monopoly on administering the .com, .net and .org TLDs until its contract expires with the federal National Science Foundation in spring 1998. Crocker criticized NSI’s record on assigning domain names and its monopolistic position: at some point profit becomes windfall, he said regarding the money NSI makes from the process. Battista countered by bragging about his company’s losses: windfall has not brought profits to NSI, he said. Crocker said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) that was put forward at an ITU meeting in Geneva last week, now had 93 signatories of companies and organizations supporting the IAHC plan. In short, the plans calls for seven more TLDs, a public oversight committee and a dispute resolution mechanism, especially in the area of trademark law. Crocker said this last part is necessary as there is no such thing as international trademark law – it’s country-specific – but it is likely to be a major stumbling block, and has floored larger organizations than the IAHC before. Crocker said although there had only been 26 publicly discussed suits relating to trademark infringement so far, there have been vastly more than that. The IAHC’s proposed model is not for users to sign with a specific registrar for a TLD – what happens if the registrar goes bust? – but for users to register with a Council of Registrars (CORE), a trade body comprising the registrars, and funded by them all. The other members of the panel painted a picture of the IAHC as a bunch of well-meaning do-gooders – Crocker responded by saying that it comprises just six old-time internet folk and two-thirds were commercial industry representatives. Barbara Dooley, executive director of the CIX (Commercial Internet eXchange) Internet Service Provider trade association, said the IAHC MoU appeared to bind the US government and its agencies into the model, which no doubt is the idea! Battista said NSI has faced fewer than 1,000 complaints out of the 1.3m names it has registered so far. He said the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) was not doing its job properly – it is supposed to be an international authority overseeing domain registries, and is one if the major players in the IAHC, along with the Internet Society (ISOC). Battista proposes taking away its authority over the TLDs, which he says are not public property and should be left to the machinations of the free market, while moving IANA’s other functions, control of IP addresses and control of the dot – where the root servers are located and who manages them. NSI also proposes the setting up of three registries for the US, Europe and the rest of the world, but last time NSI mentioned the US registry, it had total control of it. Resolution of this dispute is getting no nearer, and looks like getting pretty ugly. It looks ripe for government intervention, but that US government alone would incur the wrath of the European Commission and Asia- Pacific countries.