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July 19, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

The scramble for influence over the future control of the internet’s domain name system is heating up. At present the leading group appears to be the International Forum on the White Paper (IFWP), which held it first meeting earlier this month in the US and will hold its next one at the end of this week in Europe. The steering committee of the IFWP has taken a lot of flak for not being as open as it perhaps could be. After the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) – an ISP trade organization – took control of the group a month ago, freezing out the Domain Name Rights Coalition which was instrumental is establishing it, the steering committee has been open only to non-profit groups that are capable of participating on the numerous conference calls that the group uses to organize the meetings. The other pre-requisites for being a steering committee member is that it must not have a direct vested interest in the non-profit corporation that is to be set up to run the DNS, taking over the tasks currently performed but the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The group got lot of criticism for not publishing the agenda for the next meeting, or the minutes of its conference calls. The former was finally put on the IFWP site last Wednesday (July 15), but the minutes have never been published, despite being promised by John Wood at the meeting, who represents the Computer Services and Software Association (CSSA) on the committee. The IFWP said that the minutes had been compiled, but at a meeting the week before last, the steering committee decided to reformat the minutes of all the previous minutes, hence the delay. CIX communications director Mark McFadden said the minutes will probably go up early this week and will be in summary form, detailing who was on each call and what consensus were reached. At present the committee comprises 12 trade organizations including the Association of Interactive Media, Asia & Pacific Internet Association, CIX, EuroISPA and the US Council for International Business, among others. Another organization is in the process of applying to get on the committee. The Open Root Server Confederation (ORSC) is a group of individuals with an interest in the administration of the DNS that was co-founded by Einar Stefferud, the founder of First Virtual Holdings Inc. However, in order to get on the steering committee, the ORSC has to incorporate itself, which it did last week, and then submit its application. The IFWP says the incorporation is necessary to give board oversight to the organizations. It is now ORSC Inc. As of Friday, the ORSC had not received a reply, but Dan Steinberg of the ORSC said he did not envisage any problems. Within the IFWP steering committee there is a credentials subcommittee, which judges applications to join the committee and a program subcommittee, which deals with the logistics of the meetings. In the run-up to the Geneva meeting and with the September 30 deadline approaching at which time one group or a another has to be ready with a group to form the non-profit entity to run the DNS, tempers are getting shorter and a great deal of fur flew last week when it was thought that a representative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was on the steering committee – the ITU would not fulfill the private sector requirement. However it turned out that the ITU is not on the committee, and is only temporarily managing the steering committee’s mailing lists. The ITU representative is Robert Shaw, who also sits on the Policy Oversight Committee of the Council of Registrars (CORE). It would seem to us that with so much getting done so quickly, there is no grand conspiracy here, merely a failure to communicate effectively. But it is not surprising such theories develop, given the way the structure of the IFWP suddenly changed and established its own set of ground rules without properly informing or consulting the internet community. Presumably lessons have been learned.

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