ICANN settles feud with country-code TLD operator

The company that manages the UK's top-level domain has struck a truce with the US-based organization responsible for overseeing Internet domain names, cooling ongoing disagreements over administrative control of the Internet.

On Friday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced at a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, that it had exchanged letters with Nominet UK, a sign of future cooperation on managing the name and number system that makes Web browsing possible.

Nominet is the fourth largest Internet registry, responsible for five million domain names in the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) ".uk," according to the company's Web site.

Nominet executives have been vocal critics of ICANN, calling for more transparency given its powerful influence in the functioning of the Internet. In 2001, Nominet withdrew from an ICANN sub-body, the Domain Names Supporting Organization, over concerns about ICANN's operating policies.

That dispute appears to have diminished, partly as a result of assurances from ICANN that it would listen to the country-code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), another policy development body within ICANN. The ccNSO develops policy related to ccTLDs. Nominet will now participate in that group. The German ccTLD registry, Denic eG, which manages the ".de" suffix, joined in May.

"There weren't really policy changes," said Andrew Robertson, ICANN spokesman in Europe. "There were clarifications that ICANN board wouldn't unilaterally act on recommendations that come up from the ccNSO organization, and the ICANN board wouldn't make unilateral decisions contradicting it."

ICANN said in a statement that it has been working with ccTLDs since 2000, but the relationships are "complex" due to different economic, language, cultural and legal environments. Nominet is the seventh registry to formalize a relationship with ICANN in the last two months.

Emily Taylor, director of legal and policy for Nominet, said ICANN is respecting the desire of ccTLDs to set their own local policies for issues such as what information should be accessible through "whois" and cybersquatting disputes.

In February, ICANN introduced a program called the Accountability Framework for formalizing relationships with ccTLDs, including guidance on dispute resolution and terminations.

ICANN, a nonprofit organization, oversees the domain name registration system and root name servers, the system that translates domain names into the numeric addresses needed to serve a Web page. ICANN controls the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which manages the master domain name lists held by the 13 so-called "root" machines.

Taylor said while the administration of IANA database is a narrow, technical issue, its stability is important. ICANN is investing in the technical development of the database, and Nominet is pleased that the work is continuing in a collaborative way, she said.

ICANN's close relationship with the US Department of Commerce has also driven calls for a more international governance model. The two entities have a memorandum of understanding that is set to expire later this year.

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