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October 7, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

By March 31 next year, five companies will be allowed to compete with Network Solutions Inc (NSI) in the lucrative business of registering names in the .com, .net and .org domain name spaces. But should any additional top-level domain names (TLDs) be added to the internet, NSI will be free to compete both in the wholesale registry and retail registrar markets for any new names. Prospective registrars of alternative TLDs, such as Iperdome Inc and Image Online Design Inc, while welcoming the opportunity to compete in the three main TLDs with NSI, say the real issue is when new additional TLDs will be introduced. That is in limbo at the moment and will eventually be in the hands of the board of directors of the yet-to-be-formed non-profit corporation to run the domain name and numbering systems. Christopher Ambler, founder of Image Online says that now this amendment to the NSI agreement establishes that somebody has clear authority over the root, why can’t the companies that have been waiting [for the new TLDs] be given the same treatment? That question may not be answered for months, at least not until the government has decided upon which proposal to accept for the new non-profit corporation. Image Online claims rights to the .web TLD and Iperdome to the .per name. NSI yesterday revealed the entire contents of the agreement it signed with the US Department of Commerce Tuesday afternoon. By November 1 NSI will provide an overview to the government of the software and systems of a shared registration system, together with a detailed timeline for delivering it. Provided that the non-profit corporation – which is being established in parallel to the NSI-government negotiations – is in place and functioning by December 1, NSI will create a technical advisory group comprising not more than 10 people chosen by the new corporation to advise it on the shared registration system. The Council of Registrars (CORE) already has such a system, built for it by Emergent Corp, but NSI chief executive Gabe Battista says it would not be appropriate just to use that as it has to pick up from NSI’s own system and it is easier to build from the bottom up, rather than to bolt on an alternative that may not be compatible. By June 1 NSI must have the shared system operating with the five other registrars included, but it will have already initiated safeguards to ensure that NSI will not use the revenues generated from its registry business to finance its registrar business to the detriment of its competitors. Exactly how much NSI will charge those five new comers per registration, will be set by the board of the new corporation, taking into account NSI’s costs and a reasonable level of profit, but Battista says it would be unrealistic for me to ever guess what that is.

Recommendations for the board of directors were made by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and they are expected to be approved or changed by the government after the ten day comment period on IANA’s and the other plan ends Tuesday October 13. NSI made recommendations for the board to IANA, but none of the names we submitted were selected, says Don Telage, NSI senior vice president. Battista added that he was not sure that process is done yet, inferring that he thinks the make-up of the board may not end up exactly as IANA had planned.

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