ISOC-backed group to examine domain name issues

The Internet Society (ISOC) says it will form an international committee to examine new ways to allocate key Internet resources.

Hoping to appease growing unrest within the Internet community, the Internet Society (ISOC) says it will form an international committee to examine new ways to allocate key Internet resources.

The move is also a sign that the Reston, Virginia-based group is dropping its support of a proposal to reform the Internet's Domain Name System, or DNS, observers say. Under the ISOC plan, a nine-member international ad hoc committee will be formed by representatives of a broad range of organisations including the International Telecommunications Union, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the International Trademark Association.

In addition the ISOC and two other groups -- the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Internet Architecture Board -- will each appoint two members.

The goal of the committee, which will announce its members this week, is to work on "defining, investigating, and resolving issues resulting from current international debate over a proposal to establish global registries and additional international Top Level Domain names (iTLDs)," Don Heath, president and CEO of the Internet Society, says.

The debate is focused on domain names -- identifiers, such as mcdonalds.com or isoc.org, of an entity on the Internet. The Internet equivalent of a telephone number, a domain name is not the same as an IP address, which is a unique number assigned to each machine on the Internet.

Historically, the allocation of Internet resources such as domain names was handled informally within its then much smaller sphere, with little thought given to issues such as trademarks and ownership rights. But the names, which were originally devised as simple mnemonic tags for an underlying numeric address, have recently have been the object of a rash of legal actions over who owns domain names that contain globally known brands.

The host of organisations that have historically overseen key Internet administrative duties are not equipped to handle such legal and business issues, argue some Internet insiders.

Hoping to ease that change along, the IANA earlier this year pushed for the creation of 150 new international domains and up to 50 registries that would distribute domain names around the globe. Under the plan, the ISOC would receive funds from each registry that would be used to cover legal and other expenses.

Though initially backed by ISOC, the plan drew fierce opposition from the international Internet community, which was critical of, among other things, IANA's indirect funding by the US Department of Defence.

In an apparent move to remove itself from the firestorm surrounding the IANA proposal, the ISOC now says it will reconsider its support, according to Heath. "Additional important issues have surfaced, and it is in the best interest of the continued beneficial evolution of the Internet that these issues be aired and resolved," Heath says.

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