A rival domain name registry to the official Internet registrar, InterNIC, redirected users from "www.internic.net" to its own site last weekend in what is being called a "protest."
Netizens told CNET's NEWS.COM that they ended up at AlterNIC, or "www.alternic.net," after typing in InterNIC's URL. AlterNIC was set up by the enhanced Domain Name Services to offer alternate top-level domains, such as ".ltd," ".sex," and ".med."
"By redirecting the domain name 'www.internic.net,' we are protesting the recent InterNIC claim to ownership of '.com,' '.org,' and '.net,' which they were supposed to be running in the public trust," AlterNIC CFO Eugene Kashpureff stated on his site.
"Our apologies for any trouble this DNS [domain name system] protest has caused you...We think we exercised restraint in the use of our latest DNS technology for this protest," the letter states. "We terminated the protest configuration at 8 a.m. Monday, July 14."
The AlterNIC site also contained a link that allowed visitors to access the actual InterNIC in the protest message.
InterNIC is the registrar of the most valuable domain names, such as ".com." It is administered in part by Network Solutions under agreement with the National Science Foundation, which ends in March of next year. During its tenure, Network Solutions has collected approximately $78 million in registration fees.
The protest is the latest move in the heated debate over who will control the Internet naming system, which has turned into a lucrative business as commercial entities fight to establish brand awareness by using the most coveted names. For example, the name "business.com" was bought recently from its registered owner for $150,000.
Last month, the Commerce Department asked for public comment on the future of the domain name system. An ad hoc committee formed in part by the Internet Society also proposed a plan last year for replacing Network Solutions and reconfiguring how the names are handed out. Kashpureff said he is protesting Network Solutions' claim in its recent Securities and Exchange filing that it owned the property rights to ".com" and the other popular domains.
"If they think they own the entire domain name space, I've got news for them. Over the weekend, I possessed their name," he told CNET's NEWS.COM.
No one at Network Solutions could be immediately reached to comment on whether the company will look into legal ramifications for the rerouting of its traffic by AlterNIC.
Kashpureff wouldn't say how he managed to abduct InterNIC's domain name but did say he did it to demonstrate the system's vulnerability. "I'm not releasing how I did it because it would take out the name service on the Net. The hack was a result of a years' worth of work under a project called 'DNS Storm.'"
Moreover, there is no telling how many registrations InterNIC could have lost due to the antic. But some Netizens who were involuntarily transported to the alternate site didn't seem to mind.
"They do have a good point in the fact that those domain names are supposed to be in the public trust. I don't agree with the InterNIC monopoly either," said Jason Brunette, a Webmaster for TCB Internet in Wisconsin, who was rerouted to AlterNIC this weekend when he tried to register a domain.