Eighty groups back domain name proposal, lawsuit continues

Eighty organisations have backed a plan for revamping the Internet domain name system today in Geneva . But two big names - the US government and the European Union - continue to hold off, and a legal effort to block the plan will go before a California court.

Eighty organisations have backed a plan for revamping the Internet domain name system today in Geneva, even as a legal effort to block the plan goes before a California court.

The International Ad Hoc Committee's (IAHC) plan, which has drawn some opposition since it was introduced in February, adds seven new generic top-level domain names to the Internet's domain naming scheme: .firm, .store, .web, .arts, .rec, .nom, and .info, in addition to the currently-used .com, .org, and .net. It also sets up a system for establishing independent registrars around the world who will allocate the names and compete globally for the registration business.

At the end of a three-day meeting this week in Geneva sponsored by the IAHC, 57 organisations signed on to a memorandum of understanding detailing the plan, while another 23 organisations indicated that they intend to support it. Those signing on today include some of the initial backers of the plan - the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the Internet Society, the International Telecommunications Union, and the International Trademark Association. Others who signed on include Asia Pacific Network Information Center of Japan, the Electronic Commerce Forum of Germany, Telecom Italia SpA of Italy, Telia AB of Sweden, and US-based MCI Communications Corp. and Digital Equipment Corp. Organizations that intend to sign include France Telecom and US-based UUNet Technologies Inc.

Meanwhile, in the US, a California company's request for a temporary restraining order to block the IAHC plan is scheduled to be heard by a San Luis Obispo, California court. Image Online Design Inc. has said it has been administering the .web registry since August of last year, under agreement with the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA).

In this case, Image Online Design has alleged that the IAHC plan infringes on its agreement with IANA and has asked the court to prevent implementation of the IAHC plan. Image Online Design's president, Christopher Ambler, was in court this afternoon and not immediately available for comment.

Back in Geneva, the IAHC's chairman called today's proceedings a sign of strong international support for Internet self-governance. But the US government and the European Union have not signed on to the plan. The ISP/Consortium, which will poll its members before deciding whether to sign the proposal, was also absent from the list, as was Network Solutions Inc., the US-based company that currently allocates generic top level domain names.

Supporters of the plan are still happy with the meeting's outcome.

"We were ecstatic about the meeting," says Donald Heath, chairman of the IAHC and president and CEO of the Internet Society. "There were several people there who were interested but skeptical and ... they decided to sign on."

Organisations were convinced to sign on this week when they realized that they can be part of the plan's evolution, he said.

"That's true self-governance ... of the Internet, at least in this area of domain names," Heath says. "The Internet transcends boundaries so no one government should control ... it. The only way it can be done effectively at this point is self-governance."

Telecom Italia's support is noteworthy because "the EU [European Union] is holding back until they can study it more," he says.

Currently, domain name allocation is handled exclusively by Network Solutions, whose contract with the U.S. National Science Foundation will expire next year. The memorandum of understanding calls for setting 28 independent registrars around the world; more registrars will eventually be added.

Would-be registrars will be able to apply for the slots over the next 100 days. Until the Council of Registrars is created, which will run a shared database repository and iron out any differences between registrars, a Policy Oversight Committee has been established, made up of members of IAHC.

The IAHC can be reached on the Web at http://www.iahc.org/. Image Online Design can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.iodesign.com/.

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