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August 26, 1998

SUPPORT GROWS FOR PROFS TO ARRANGE IFWP WRAP-UP

By CBR Staff Writer

Support is growing for law professors at Harvard University to take control in bringing to a conclusion the summer’s series of meetings that have been hammering out the basis of the proposed new non-profit entity to run the domain name system. There have been four meetings of the International Forum on the White Paper (IFWP) – in Virginia, Geneva, Singapore and most recently Buenos Aires and a concluding meeting is likely to be held next month. There has also been a great deal of discussion on various mailing lists that have contributed to the debate, but their dissipation across at least five lists makes it difficult for them to be as effective as face-to-face meetings. Many in the community are encouraging a group of Harvard law professors who have taken a keen interest in the DNS wars – prominent among them Lawrence Lessig, who is also the special master in the Microsoft versus Department of Justice antitrust case – to act as neutral overseers and assist in drafting the final documents. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has just released the third draft of its proposal for the new entity (see separate story) and there may be other alternatives in the pipeline, but the IFWP would seem to have been the most open process thus far. Few believe that any entity will be in place by the government’s September 30 deadline, but it is there to be shot at. September 11-13 is the current date being bandied around for a series of meetings in Boston, Massachusetts to wrap up the IFWP process and produce a set of draft bylaws for the new entity to present to the US government. Current thinking has a group of anywhere between 5 and 30 so-called stakeholders to meet in a closed session to hammer out the details, which would then be presented to an open meeting for discussion and alteration. However, nothing is set in stone yet, but such a meeting is getting support from many on the IFWP steering committee and from Network Solutions Inc, the current monopoly operator of the DNS registry for .com, .net and .org. NSI’s senior VP Don Telage says the crucial thing about the make- up of the closed meeting is that no one person alone could stop any deal. Some suggest that having up to 30 people in a room and expecting something concrete to emerge is not realistic. Just who is invited and who is left out is not a decision that will be taken lightly, because the consequences will be far-reaching and long-lasting. The Harvard group produces a summary of the current situation at https://cyber.law.harvard.edu/ifwp.

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