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Internet names, part deu
By: Scott Bradner
It seems like only yesterday that I was writing a column on the InterNic and its policies concerning Internet domain names. Needless to say, it is time to do so again. (please add column reference) My last column was in response to the InterNic announcing a set of rules about who could have what name. This column is in response to the InterNic announcing that domain names are no longer free.
At a certan level one could say that there is no learning going on here. The InterNic was widely & wildly criticized last time for springing a major policy change onto the Internet community without any comment period. The tradition of the Internet, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the U.S. government is to have an open discussion before rules and regulations are adopted. The InterNic did not do this when announcing the change on the intellectual property rights procedures associated with specific domain names. Now they have done the same thing again. They have, out of the blue, announced that people will have to pay to get permission to use domain names and also to retain the right to continue to use them. This includes those who have already been assigned.
This announcement caused a firestorm on various Internet mailing lists. Some people were upset that there had not been a comment period, others that the InterNic has a monopoly in this name business and others that the price quoted ($100 for the 1st two years and $50 per year after that) was too high. A number of organizations have announced that they will seek permission to assign domain names in competition with the InterNic.
Lets talk about the last point first. Some people on the mailing list have maintained that charging $50 per year per domain name somehow will threaten the very existence of the Internet. This is more than a bit silly. The idea that someone who has a domain name, which could cover hundreds or thousands of individual computers will be somehow burdened by having to pay a bit less than $5 per month for the right to use the overall domain name seems more than a little unlikely. It is true that one might expect that the cost could be less if good automation were used in the name registration and billing process but in any case it ain't a whole lot of money for the function.
The suggestion that more competition is needed is much more rational. Competition in the allocating of names could help ensure that the Internet community gets the most responsive and efficient service in this area.
Right now the main problem in assigning names is the part of the domain name space called the ".com" top level domain. A top level domain is the rightmost part of a domain name, the ".edu in harvard.edu for example. The .com space, though initially mostly allocated within the United States, is now increasing in demand elsewhere.
Some people now want to add additional world-wide top level domains run by different registries to compete with the use of .com. I don't know how that would help all that much. I would expect that if, for example, a .biz top level domain were created, all of the major companies would either register in the new domain or sue to ensure that their trademarked name was not used in the new domain. It would be very confusing to have ibm.biz be a different company than ibm.com.
For myself, I'd rather see a phaseout of the use of .com with companies moving to .com subdoman names within country-based top level domains (ibm.com.us for example). Relatively few companies are international enough to have to register in more than a few countries other than their home country. I'd also like to see a way that multiple registries would be able to compete to register companies within the new subdomain -- it is not a hard technical problem to solve.
disclaimer: Harvard, even with its billion dollar budget, is not in .com so does not have an opinion on this topic.