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AOL does domains--finally

America Online quietly begins registering the most popular forms of Internet addresses, more than three months after the registration system was opened to competitors.

America Online has quietly begun registering the most popular forms of Internet addresses, more than three months after the domain registration system was opened to competitors.

One of five registrars named in April to test a shared system for registering domain names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org," AOL's CompuServe began selling the addresses to its subscribers Friday, a spokesman said. Like the other four "test bed" registrars, AOL is charging $70 per name for the first two years, the same fee Network Solutions--which until recently was the monopoly registrar--has charged for years.

AOL spokesman Jim Whitney said the move represents only a "first step" in the company's plans to offer new services to its subscribers. He said the firm is considering a number of refinements to the service, including bundling it with Web hosting, which it already provides through a partnership with Verio.

Until recently, NSI had sole authority to register domain names with the three endings, which account for an estimated 75 percent of the world's Internet addresses. The arrangement has generated millions of dollars for NSI and has turned it into the world's dominant registrar.

Unlike some of the new competitors, whose sole source of revenue revolves around registration, AOL has taken its time getting plugged into the new system, which is being overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. By contrast, Register.com, the first registrar to go live under the shared registration system, worked around the clock to get up and running.