An upstart Internet domain name registry today filed suit to stop a plan from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to create seven new top-level domains akin to ".com" or ".gov".
In a complaint filed in a San Luis Obispo, California, court, Image Online Design alleges that the IANA reneged on a deal to sanction its ".web" registry. IANA gets its authority to sanction registries from the National Science Foundation.
Image Online Design says IANA officials orally agreed to the deal but reneged when the organization's International Ad Hoc Committee later decided to include ".web" in the lottery planned for later this year.
The suit asks the court to stop the Ad Hoc Committee's plan and to award the ".web" registry to Image Online Design.
Disgusted with what they see as an unfair grip on an increasingly valuable franchise, several Internet businesses have opened their own home-brewed domain name registries to compete with IANA's InterNIC. They say that the Internet name space, created by government agencies, is a public resource and InterNIC shouldn't have a monopoly in selling it.
InterNIC registers names in the popular ".com" and ".net" top-level domains. Eugene Kashpureff, owner of AlterNIC, and Karl Denninger, president of Chicago-based ISP Macro Solutions--two of the most vocal of these "rogue" domain owners--have often threatened to sue IANA. So it's ironic that a suit should finally come from the one company that has worked closely with the IANA to develop its new domain registries.
"IANA granted me authority to run '.web' pending approval, and they said we'd get that approval no matter what the process turned out to be," said Image Online Design president Chris Ambler. "We worked with [IANA chairman Jon] Postel, waited patiently, and now he's slapping us in the face."
Indicated by the last letters of a Web or email address, only a handful of top-level domains are officially recognized by IANA. But last year, it submitted a plan to add 50 new registries. Under fire from critics, it withdrew the plan and formed the International Ad Hoc Committee to come up with a new plan.
Early this year, the IAHC announced it would sell by lottery, seven new TLDs, including, much the ".web" registry. According to Ambler, Postel and the rest of IANA's four-member board and its Ad Hoc committee, whose chairman Donald Heath is also named in the suit, said he could pay his $20,000 lottery fee and line up with everyone else. Heath is also the president of the Internet Society, the private trade group that which says it is the "umbrella" organization to the IANA. The Internet Society was not named in the suit.
Reached by phone this evening, IANA chair Postel declined to comment.
Correction notice: The spelling of Chris Ambler's name was corrected on 2/28/97 at 10am PT. We regret the error.