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Net naming plan signed

A plan extending the Net naming system is signed by 57 attendees of a meeting in Geneva as a California court denies a bid to halt the pact.

A pact to extend the Internet's naming system was signed by 57 attendees of a meeting hosted by the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva this week. At the same time, a California court denied a company's bid to halt the pact's implementation.

The International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) today wrapped up its meeting with the signing of an international Memorandum of Understanding. The agreement is supposed to lend a legal framework to the volunteer committee's efforts to create seven new top-level domains akin to ".com" and ".org". However, the plan is far from universally accepted.

A mix of trade organizations, businesses, volunteer Internet committees, and international bodies, including the ITU and the World Intellectual Property Organization, were committed to signing the agreement. As expected, big Net player MCI signed. UUnet, along with 23 other organizations, said it will sign, but didn't send delegates to the meeting. However, both the ITU and WIPO were conspicuously absent from the final list of signatories.

Late last week, the U.S. government made it clear that it wasn't ready to sign on to anything, instructing the Geneva mission to express "concern" at the ITU taking a position and spending money without consulting member states such as the United States. The European Union also came out against the plan, in part because it felt that the IAHC had not adequately represented European nations.

The White House's interagency task force on domain names also met for the third time yesterday, but participants were tight-lipped about what, if any, action may be forthcoming from the administration. "We believe that on the question of allocating domain names, we need to move to a more competitive environment on that, but we're not ready to comment specifically on this proposal because we are still consulting pretty broadly about it," said Ira Magaziner, senior advisor to the President and chairman of the White House taskforce on e-commerce.

The IAHC plan also faces a challenge from Network Solutions, the current exclusive registrar of top-level domain names not pegged to geographic location, including ".com", ".net", and ".org". Network Solutions contends that the databases underlying the seven domains it administers belong to the company, adding that it will not give them up when its InterNIC agreement with the National Science Foundation expires at the end of March next year.

However, the ad hoc committee chalked up a victory as Image Online Design today lost its bid for a temporary injunction against the implementation of the MoU.

The judge hearing the case refused the injunction because it appeared that granting such a request would be disruptive and destabilizing to the Internet, said Chris Ambler, president of Image Online Design. "It didn't appear that the judge realized that [the ad hoc committee's plan] doesn't have consensus by any means," he said in a CNET Radio interview earlier today.

The injunction is part of a suit that Image Online Design filed against several members of the ad hoc committee last month. The suit alleges that members of the committee reneged on a promise to award the ".web" registry exclusively to the company, based in San Luis Obispo, California. Instead, the ad hoc committee decided to allow all 28 of the proposed new registrars to create second-level domain names in any of the seven new top-level domains, including ".web".