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Domain foes try consensus

Two domain rivals release a joint proposal for the administration of domain names with a short period for public comment.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions today released a new joint proposal for the administration of domain names--a responsibility now held by the U.S. government.

In a letter penned by IANA chief Jon Postel and Network Solutions CEO Gabe Battista, the two domain camps released a new set of jointly developed bylaws that outline the formation of a nonprofit corporation called the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The bylaws outline how ICANN, which will be based in Los Angeles, could take over the government's management of domain name registration.

The IANA and Network Solutions action comes just two weeks shy of the deadline for the various factions to establish a nonprofit corporation to oversee the administration of domain names. In June, the Clinton administration's Internet policy adviser, Ira Magaziner, released a white paper calling for the establishment of an international nonprofit organization that would take over the government's role, now played by the National Science Foundation.

"It has been our good faith effort to put forward this final draft as the consensus solutions that best meet the challenges set forth in the white paper and to meet the deadline by the end of this month," the letter read.

In addition, Postel and Battista called for interested parties to resolve outstanding issues as quickly as possible and for a short window--one to two days--to submit comments and suggestions on the accord. The parties also said that it will be difficult to make significant changes to the resolution due to time constraints.

Today, the domain name system is run under government contract by a few powerful organizations: the IANA, a U.S. government-funded organization that runs the servers that handle Internet addressing; and privately held Network Solutions, which currently holds a contract to register all top-level domain names, including ".com" and ".net," under the guise of the InterNIC.

However, ordering private companies and other organizations, businesses, and individuals to simply unify has been quite a challenge, given that not everyone agrees on the basic issues. In particular, the IANA and Network Solutions have a history of being at loggerheads over how to handle the transition of the system to the private sector.

In August, IANA released its third draft of a consensus plan that received mixed reviews from Internet industry observers. Many complained that the terms would give IANA too much control over the domain organization's membership, while others said that the proposal was at least one step in the right direction.'s Janet Kornblum contributed to this story