US govt domain name system plan moving forward

The Clinton administration's top Internet adviser continues to stick by a controversial Internet domain plan and says he could have a final version ready in a few weeks. But the backers of an alternative plan vowed to keep fighting for control of domain names. ''Some things are going to have to be changed,'' Ira Magaziner in an interview this week. ''But we don't have to start over.'' The plan, outlined in a recent green paper, has been criticised as ignorant of the needs of non-US domain managers.

The Clinton administration's top Internet adviser continues to stick by a controversial Internet domain plan and says he could have a final version ready in a few weeks. But the backers of an alternative plan vowed to keep fighting for control of domain names.

''Some things are going to have to be changed,'' Ira Magaziner in an interview on Tuesday. ''But we don't have to start over.''

Magaziner's comments came yesterday after House hearings on Internet domain names. Magaziner has proposed shifting control from Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) to an as-yet-uncreated non-profit group that would in turn permit private registrars to issue domain names. NSI in turn would become one of these registrars -- but would also continue to run the core database at the heart of the domain name system.

The chairman of the Council of Registrars (CORE) said the group has not given up its battle to alter the US government's plan and will continue to collect funds from its 87 members toward this effort.

Both Magaziner and CORE want to create competition in domain naming. However, CORE's plan would shift control of the database from NSI to its own system -- and would set itself up as the overseer of domain naming. The two also differ on the number and names of new generic top-level domains, as well as on how many registrars could dole out names in domains -- the US government wants one registrar per top-level domain (for example, .com); CORE wants multiple registrars for each.

CORE, which was formed by the Internet Society and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to hand domain naming to the private sector, has faced an uphill fight since its creation in 1997.

Over the past three months, the US Commerce Department has received more than 600 comments from individuals and organisations on the Magaziner plan. Magaziner said none has convinced him to change the major outlines of his plan.

Magaziner said he hopes to have the final plan ready in ''weeks rather than months.''

CORE paid Emergent Corp., a database vendor, to create what it named the Shared Registry System. To foot the bill, each of the group's 87 members came up with $US100,000. According to ISOC President Don Heath, that money has long been spent. So to keep up testing for a system that may never be fully implemented, Hansen said members are each throwing in $2,000 a month.

Also, the whole testing period will go into what Hansen calls a ''warm hibernation'' once all members are connected to the database. Just exactly when that will be and for how long the hibernation will last, Hansen wouldn't say. Already one member, Mindspring, has backed out of the group.

''It's a painful business situation,'' Hansen said of the limbo CORE has been in since the government released its green paper in January. ''February 9 was supposed to be our start date (to sell domains).''

But Hansen throws his woes back on the US government, saying that it needs to listen to what CORE is saying. ''We're not telling the government how to devolve its monopoly,'' he said. ''We are merely saying we don't see the top-level domains as cyber-kingdoms for monopolistic intentions.''

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