President Clinton's Internet policy adviser Ira Magaziner may not win a Noble Peace Prize if he succeeds in bringing together the various factions of the domain name issue. But he just might be nominated.
The "white paper" on domain names, released today, calls for an international nonprofit corporation to be established that would eventually take over control of the domain name system from the U.S. government.
But the plan is deliberately vague about how that board will be established, simply calling for the various parties to get together. The idea is for the parties involved to come to an understanding themselves, without U.S. government intervention.
To say the parties--which range from industry groups to countries and businesses--haven't always gotten along would be an understatement. In fact, they have in the past tried to reach consensus and failed miserably.
But Magaziner said in a telephone interview today that he thinks it is possible--even probable--that the groups will come to an agreement, largely because the various parties have had to reach consensus during the several-month-long process that it has taken for the government to formulate its own plan on transferring power.
"We could turn out to be wrong," Magaziner said. "But having worked with all these different groups now for months, our view is that they're ready to form a consensus. If you read the comments [from the green paper], there are a number of serious areas where there is consensus but there also is a view that we, as the U.S. government, shouldn't create consensus. While they may still look a little suspicious at each other, I think it is possible to have a process to include them all and work effectively together."
However, if they don't, Magaziner said he is not above bringing them together to reach de´tente.
"If there seems to be a reemergence of some of the vitriol of last November, December, and January...we're going to do anything possible to bring them together," he said.
Magaziner emphasized that the U.S. government will not lead the organization.
He added that the process has not only highlighted differences, but also shown what the different parties have in common.
"There's almost universal agreement that there should be a private nonprofit [organization]," he said. "There's almost universal agreement that the United States should turn over its authority." And, he added, there's nearly universal agreement about the fact that Network Solutions, the company that currently oversees the most popular domain name systems under a contract with the U.S. government, should face competition.
If the parties do meet and reach consensus, the reward will be simple, Magaziner said.
"We'll just get a sense of relief and a better night's sleep than we've had," he said.