Moving forward with its plan to introduce privatized competition, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers accredited a bevy of new registrars under its Commerce Department charter to manage the Net's addressing system. It is unclear, however, when these companies will actually start selling domain names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org."
A test-bed phase, involving 5 new companies including America Online, is still in progress and must be completed before some 37 post-test-bed registrars can start to tap into NSI's registration system. The trial is set to end July 16, although only two companies are hooked in now.
But while that timetable is uncertain, ICANN's agreements with the new registrars seem likely to help implement groundbreaking policy in the management and sale of domain names--the cornerstone for doing business in the new economy or having a personal presence on the Net.
The nonprofit is considering, for example, putting in place a controversial dispute policy that would give "famous" trademark holders around the world special rights over domain names. Currently, domains are held on a first-come, first-served basis. The policy would take effect as newly accredited registrars come online and begin acting on ICANN's directions.
To be accredited by ICANN, registrars must meet minimum financial benchmarks so the stability of registrants' Net names isn't threatened. ICANN's guidelines also state that registrars must agree to escrow an electronic copy of their database in the event the accreditation agreement is terminated or expires without renewal, for example.
NSI does not intend to sign the agreement, however, which could prove a huge monkey wrench in ICANN's plans. The company has had a six-year contract with the U.S. government to register domain names, but the revised agreement runs out next year. Without the cooperation of NSI--which already has registered 5 million domain names--it will be hard for ICANN to gain wide acceptance of its policies.
The deal-breaker for NSI is a provision laying out six reasons ICANN could terminate the registrars' accreditation, including that the "registrar acts in a manner that ICANN reasonably determines endangers the stability and operational integrity." ICANN will only give the registrar 15 days' notice before tearing up the agreement, and then an arbitration process could kick in.
The additional companies named today are: Affinity Hosting, Alabanza, Animus Communications, Computer Data Networks, Concentric Network, Domain Registration Services, EnetRegistry.com Corporation, EPAG Enter-Price Multimedia, InterAccess Company, PSINet, Research Institute for Computer Science, SiteName, TierraNet, TotalWeb Solutions, and World-Net.