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Domain registrars offer ICANN help

Thirteen future domain name registrars promise to voluntarily give the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers $1 for each sale of a domain name as the body struggles to stay afloat.

The cash-starved body anointed to manage some of the Internet's core functions has resorted to knocking on doors to fund its operations.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is seeking money from Net businesses and asking its accredited domain name registrars to voluntarily hand over $1 for each sale of a name ending in ".com," ".org," or ".net," at least until next year. So far, 13 companies have pledged to pitch in.

ICANN had planned to collect the fee from all of the 50-plus new domain name registrars expected to come online through next year but abandoned the idea one day before a House subcommittee hearing in which lawmakers were expected to scrutinize it.

Since it signed an agreement with the Commerce Department in November to manage the Net's domain name system and to accredit new registrars to compete with Network Solutions, ICANN has blown through its initial $1.1 million start-up budget.

As previously reported by CNET News.com, ICANN is struggling with its finances. The California nonprofit company is $728,000 in the hole--$500,000 of which has gone to legal fees, according to the corporation's interim president, Mike Roberts.

NSI, which has registered more than 5 million domain names, hasn't signed an operation agreement with ICANN and therefore has made no commitment to help fund the body. Still, a small group of companies that hope to challenge NSI's market share will contribute to ICANN at the expense of their own bottom lines.

The new registrars want ICANN to stay in business so they can get a piece of NSI's billion-dollar domain name registration business. Under an evolving government contract, NSI has been the sole registrar for names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org" for the past six years.

ICANN's dire financial situation could lead to the nonprofit's demise and derail the historical transition of control of the Net's technical underpinnings, which are critical in allowing any computer or Web site to go live on the global network.

"We're all interested in ICANN surviving--they need to raise money to continue breaking Network Solutions' monopoly of '.com,' '.net,' and '.org' registrations," said Per-Anders Hurtigh, chief executive of Port Information System, an accredited registrar that plans to donate money to ICANN.

But the money won't start flowing immediately, because only five companies have been given the green light to test NSI's shared registration system, and not all of them are online yet.

Moreover, the funds ICANN will get from the new handful of registrars will only be a drop in the bucket compared to ICANN's debt, which will keep growing.

"We're looking forward to any help we can get," ICANN's Roberts said today. "But it depends on how successful they are, and most of those folks are still waiting for the test period to end. It's anyone's guess how much business they'll be able to take from NSI."

Other registrars that have promised to help fund ICANN include Active ISP, Affinity Hosting, Animus Communications, CASDNS, Domain Bank, eNom, InfoRamp, InterQ Incorporated, Melbourne IT, Nominalia, PSI-Japan, and SiteName.