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February 10, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is in the process of taking over the administration of the internet’s name and numbering address systems, has published a long list of requests for public comments on the entire gamut of its forthcoming responsibilities. It’s part of the nascent non- profit body’s attempt to gauge the opinion of the internet community – those that are active in the politics of the internet – and the general public beyond. Prime among the responsibilities are what sort of accreditation is necessary for companies wising to become a registrar of domain names. For the past six years Network Solutions Inc, the Herndon Virginia company whose stock is traded on the Nasdaq-Amex exchange, has had a US government-sanctioned monopoly on both the domain name registry functions – maintaining the database of the internet’s addresses – and the registrar functions, the part of the business that sells registrations to companies and individuals. NSI has had the contract of its registry function extended through September 2000, but is being forced to open up the registrar side of its business to competition – with five companies initially chosen by ICANN to use its testbed implementation of a shared registry system. How those companies are chosen and ultimately which ones are chosen will be highly controversial. Some in the community that hoped to get a chance to participate as a testbed registrar are already telling us that large telecommunications firms will be given most of the slots, but that is still conjecture at this point. ICANN has a board meeting scheduled in Singapore from March 2-4 and will debate whatever comments have been posted at its web site. Following the establishment of the criteria to be a testbed registrar, applications will be accepted until March 23 and the five names announced March 31 by ICANN. There will be a two month trial period for the five companies chosen – plus NSI’s own WorldNic registrar business – which will start on April 26. By June 25, NSI will make the registry system available to all companies meeting the registrar accreditation requirements. The recent poorly attended technical advisory group meeting at NSI’s headquarters to review its progress, was part of the development process for the testbed shared registry. By October 25, NSI must have completed the re-engineering of its registry-registrar interface. NSI plucks a couple of phrases right from the top of the ICANN announcement in the week it reported its fourth quarter earnings and announced a secondary offering. It notes the preliminary form of the guidelines and that they are not authoritative and not to be relied upon by any party. But they are just a disclaimer by ICANN, something NSI knows a lot about as public-traded company. The theory that large telcos could dominate the testing phase, which is not supposed to give them a competitive advantage over registrars that come after them, but most likely will, is vindicated by ICANN’s warning that the testing phase will not be the faint-hearted. It will require them to to devote significant time, expertise, and resources to ensure the success of the testing process, and they must be prepared to publish operational information as part of the test evaluation. ICANN is looking for comments on the minimum technical, operational and financial criteria – it tentatively suggests a liquid capital minimum of $100,000. It also courts suggestions on the portability of domain names between registrars, protection against fraud and of intellectual property rights, data security and privacy protection, and the fees that the registrars pay the registries. ICANN is also requesting comments on other matters, including draft conflict of interest and reconsideration policies and the applications received from those wishing to define the bylaws of the domain name supporting organization (DNSO), which will define domain name policy for ICANN. Comments on all these can b

e submitted at

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