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ICANN approves wait list for desired domains

The nonprofit group's approval of VeriSign's so-called Wait Listing Service puts to rest one of the company's chief complaints about the organization.

Anyone hoping to buy expiring Internet domain names that end in .com and .net may be able to place their names on a wait list, according to a preliminary decision that must be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce before it becomes official.

During a meeting in Rome, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved VeriSign's request to conduct a 12-month trial of the so-called Wait Listing Service, putting to rest one of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's chief complaints about ICANN.

ICANN, a prominent Internet governing body, had been negotiating with VeriSign since March 2002 over details of the Wait Listing Service. Claiming that ICANN was stalling and blocking innovation, VeriSign filed a federal lawsuit against ICANN on Feb. 26 that asked for an injunction permitting the Wait Listing Service to go forward with little intervention. No ruling has happened in the case.

The Wait Listing Service would work like this: Domain name registrars could make reservations for expiring .com and .net domains on behalf of their customers. Only one reservation would be accepted for each domain name, on a first-come, first-served basis. The existing domain name holder would always have the option to renew it.

VeriSign, which has a government contract to run the master database for .com and .net, has claimed that the Wait Listing Service would bring some structure to the oft-chaotic way that expiring domain names are handled. VeriSign runs the database under contract with ICANN and the Commerce Department, both of which must approve the proposal.

But the suggestion has drawn sharp criticism from some domain name registrars, which have filed their own lawsuit against both ICANN and VeriSign, alleging that the planned service will hurt their businesses by permitting VeriSign to leverage its government-granted monopoly over two of the Internet's most popular areas of real estate.

The ongoing courtroom jockeying among ICANN, VeriSign and the registrars has worried some veteran engineers and policy analysts, who fear that it could destabilize the core of the Internet. This week, the People For Internet Responsibility group announced an emergency conference titled "Preventing the Internet Meltdown," to take place in Los Angeles this summer.