By Nick Patience
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is running out of money fast and Friday an appeal went out from Vint Cerf, the co-inventor of TCP/IP and all-round internet guru, asking for funds for the nascent non-profit body that will this year assume control of the internet’s name and numbers addressing system. Cerf is part of a separate body called the Global Internet Project (GIP), which started a pledge drive back in September to raise money for ICANN. It hoped to raise $500,000, but so far has only received pledges of about $250,000. GIP was founded by Netscape Communications Corp chairman, Jim Clark and its chairman is IBM’s internet technology chief, John Patrick. Other members include AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, NEC, EDS, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu. In an email to the list of the Internet Society’s advisory board on Friday, Cerf says ICANN needs at least $1m and maybe $2m. In its memorandum of understanding signed with the US Department of Commerce in Late November last year, ICANN said it estimated that it needed between $750,000 and $1m to fund its first six months. However, it is not exactly clear when those six months started. Its main expense is administrative. It is renovating office space at the Marina Del Rey, California headquarters of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the duties of which it is assuming. It is also in the process of straightening out the accreditation requirements for the first companies in the brave new world of competition in the registrar business, in which Network Solutions Inc has enjoyed the monopoly for the past six years. NSI is preparing technical specifications and software – at its expense – to enable new companies to compete with it to register names in the .com, .net and .org name spaces. There will be five companies in a two month test period from May to June, and the market should be opened up by October. NSI will retain control of the registry, the database of names, until at least October 2000 under a US government agreement. It is not clear how long ICANN thinks the money will last – we asked all relevant parties but had no responses by press time. The earlier pledge drive resulted in donations from the likes of IBM, MCI WorldCom, Compaq, Netscape and Symantec. But in order to avoid grandstanding, GIP set a limit on donations of $50,000 and emphasized that no influence whatsoever will be derived from donating money. It is not clear yet whether there is a ceiling on this pledge drive.