The following text is copyright 1997 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Who says who makes the rules?

The International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) looking into the idea of creating additional top-level domain names has now published a draft proposal. ( As one might expect about anything Internet related, opinion about the draft is mixed.

The idea of forming such an ad hoc committee was first broached in a proposal from Larry Landweber, chair of the Internet Society (ISOC) board of directors, Brian Carpenter, chair of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Jon Postel, Director of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Nick Trio, ISOC Advisory Council Officer and later expanded by Jon Postel and published as

After the ISOC board of trustees voted to support the plan in the Postel draft, the IAHC was formed following the process outlined in the draft with the addition of representatives from a number of international organizations historically involved in the general types of issues dealt with in the Internet Domain Name System. The final committee consisted of people chosen by the IAB, the ISOC, the IANA, the U.S. Federal Networking Council, the International Telecommunication Union, the International Trademark Association, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This diverse group has now made a recommendation to carefully expand the number of generic top level domains (gTLDs) beyond the current three; .com, .org and .net. The proposal calls for the addition of seven new gTLDs, each of which is to be administerd by a number of registeries working together. What specific new gTLDs to create will be resolved in the future. The initial registrars for each of these gTLDs are to be chosen by lottery with a fixed number selected from each of seven global geographic areas to minimize the chance of domination by any one country. A $20,000 fee is proposed for those organizations who would like to participate in the lottery to ensure that only financially viable organizations are considered. The fee is refunded if the organization is not selected. The draft also proposes that a 60-day waiting period be used by all gTLD registrars after the receipt of a request to register a second-level domain name before the registration is actually done. This is to allow organizations which feel that a new request conflicts with an existing trademark a chance to contest the registration in the appropriate courts.

As the Internet proceeds to expand its role in the day to day life on this globe we must soon answer two questions: Who says who makes the rules? and Who pays for what? We cannot find a viable model for answering either of these questions by looking at existing global mechanisms used by telephone, radio or television. Although there are a few individuals expressing considerable disagreement with the IAHC proposals, and the reception by the traditional international and national regulatory authorities has not yet been made manifest, it just might be that we are on the way toward answering the first of my questions by successful example.

disclaimer: Since Harvard was not involved in the IAHC some might question the committee's legitimacy, and yes, I am an ISOC board member, but the above expression of hope is my own.