Network Solutions Inc (NSI) will next month put details of its protocols on a web site for prospective registrars to see how to interface with its software and systems to register domain names in the .com, .net and .org name spaces. It is the first stage in the breakdown of NSI’s government-sanctioned monopoly as both the exclusive registry and registrar of names with the three most popular extensions. By March 31 1999, five new registrars will have been selected to compete with NSI, while it will remain as the exclusive registry until September 2000, ensuring that the names get entered into the internet’s root server system. Although proprietary to NSI, the protocols are modeled on SMTP and use simple ASCII, so it could be run from a regular PC, says Dave Holtzman, the company’s senior VP engineering. Registrars, the retail side of the business, in which NSI will also compete, will build their own software based on the NSI protocols. They will be able add, delete, modify and determine the status of domain names. But, says Holtzman, the billing and contact information part of the process, will remain strictly in the hands of the registrars. Holtzman says the model that NSI will employ is that of a thin registry which is why the share registration system developed on behalf of the Council of Registrars (CORE) would not work. That’s a fat registry model, says Holtzman, which involves the registry doing most of the work and the registrars just passing on the customer requirements. That is not likely to be attractive to registrars who will not have access to their customer’s information, he says. And anyway, the CORE system has never been used, and has only undergone minimal testing. CORE is a body comprising about 80 registrars who are trying to get a slice of the domain name registration market once it is opened up to competition. By pushing the customer information down to he registrar level, it also pushes the legal liability down to the registrars as well, and away from NSI. That is very important to NSI as it does not want to be inundated with calls from the customers of other registrars if something should go wrong with their domain names, much less calls from their lawyers.