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Fight over domain continues

Two business partners, presidents of Alternic and Macro Computer Systems, are livid over an agency's plan to license new top-level domains, like their own ".biz" name.

"Who the heck is the IANA?" That's what Eugene Kashpureff and Karl Denninger want to know. The business partners have been called everything from crackpots to freedom fighters for creating domains that are neither sanctioned nor supported by the powers that be.

Kashpureff, a former tow truck operator and current president of Alternic, is hopping mad about the Internet Assigned Names Authority's recent plan to license 50 new top-level domains (TLDs) next year.

"They are basically squatting on what is public property. I don't believe the IANA has the authority to do this, I don't think they have the legal right to tilt the competitive landscape. I don't think they should be able to collect any fees in excess of documentable expenses," said Karl Denninger, president of Macro Computer Solutions, a Chicago-based ISP, which recently began registering its customers in the ".biz" domain sold by Alternic. "This thing will not go unchallenged."

Kashpureff and Denninger claim that they have as much right to create new TLDs and start domain name registries as the IANA, because the Internet's domain names are public property created by government funds.

Denninger and Kashpureff not only question the IANA's authority but are not happy with specifics of the plan. New registries have to pay a $2,000 fee up front as well as handing over two percent of the revenues from selling domain names to the IANA. The problem is, none of these rules will apply to the InterNIC or its contractor, SAIC Network Solutions.

"You can't set up what amounts to a franchise authority, which is what this is, and treat one organization differently from another," Denninger said. "If they are going to impose fees like this, they have to impose them equally on everybody or you wind up with a problem with antitrust and restraint of trade."

Both Denninger and Kashpureff said they will consider legal action, including pursuing the IANA through the Justice Department, should the plan go into effect as it stands.

Then there's the question of where the money will go. Two hundred new TLDs times $2,000 each means that the IANA will collect a minimum of $400,000 plus a 2 percent cut of registry fees. IANA officials say they plan to use the money to help replace, maintain, and run root servers.

"You can't tell me that it takes a million dollars to run root servers," said Denninger, who speculates that the currently unpaid IANA board may vote itself hefty salaries or the money may go to fund the Internet Society, which he claims has no right to the funds.

Mostly, however, Denninger and Kashpureff complain about a lack of accountability and clarity. They charge that the plan was written with almost no input from outside IANA's four-member board. They also say the IANA has no public charter, no record of funding, offers no information about how it selects board members or committees, and isn't even registered as a non-profit organization.

"I can go to City Hall and complain when I don't like how my (tax) money's being spent, or I can vote the bums out," Denninger said. "What recourse do I have with the IANA?"