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Domain plan takes database bids

An ad hoc committee will soon open bidding for plans to build the central database for a new Internet domain registration system that aims to replace the InterNIC.

The interim Policy Oversight Committee (iPOC) will soon open bidding for plans to build the central database for a new Internet domain name registration system that aims to replace the InterNIC.

The ad hoc group met in New York last Thursday and Friday to bang out the technical details for its plan to create seven new generic top-level domain names, which will be doled out by iPOC-approved registrars around the world. The international registrars will use the database to process and record the new domains, as well as the associated customer data. In addition, the database will be used to create a "whois" search engine so the public can look up a domain's owner and contact information.

A list of technical requirements for the shared repository and a schedule for implementation were drafted during last week's meeting. The new domain name registration system is expected to be functional in January.

"Now we will issue a request for proposals, primarily from companies experienced in building database transaction systems. With any luck, there will be a draft available for public comment available within a week or two," said Dave Crocker, a member of the iPOC, who was appointed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

The new domain name proposal is based on the Generic Top-Level Domain Memorandum of Understanding (gTLD-MoU), which was signed by more than 50 attendees at International Telecommunication Union meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this May.

The gTLD-MoU was designed to replace the current domain name registration system, which is hosted by the InterNIC and administered by Network Solutions. Under a contract with the National Science Foundation that expires next March, Network Solutions is registrar of the most popular top-level domain names: .com, .net, and .org.

The gTLD-MoU will register names under the following domains: .firm, .store, .web, .arts, .rec, .info, and .nom. Domains will be registered by an indefinite number of companies. Already, eight international registrars have been approved since iPOC called for applications in July. Interested companies must apply before October 16 to Arthur Andersen and may have to pay up to $10,000 in membership fees.

After October, registrar applications will be approved by the Council of Registrars, known as CORE. This body will consist of the registrars already approved by iPOC, as well as companies added after CORE takes over. CORE is expected to be officially incorporated under the laws of Switzerland by the end of this month. The council will be in charge of enforcing the domain registrar requirements.

The iPOC was formed by the now-dissolved International Ad Hoc Committee, which was originally created by the not-for-profit Internet Society. The group's plan has sparked controversy by critics who question the voluntary group's authority. Those who have heavily invested to secure their Net site name also fear that the addition of new domains will devalue their online brand power.

During the World Intellectual Property Organization's Geneva meeting last Monday and Tuesday, some delegates also argued that the gTLD-MoU did not provide adequate protection for trademarks when registering domain names. In the United States, legal battles have been waged over names such as "," which was registered by someone other than its rightful owner.

Under the gTLD-MoU, trademarks that are held collectively in at least 35 countries are protected. Once such trademarks are registered as Net addresses, the owners can apply to have others blocked from using the names under all domains. Some WIPO members want to relax the requirement so that more companies can file challenges.

Although the iPOC meeting focused on technical issues, trademark concerns also came up. The iPOC also saw a presentation of a search engine that could help trademark owners identify new domain names that may infringe on their registered brands.

"There was a plea from a member of the trademark community that the system let people with trademarks find out about new domain names so they can do the appropriate policing," iPOC's Crocker said. "Some have been lobbying quite hard against the creation of our new generic top-level domains because they fear they won't have this ability."