The controversy surrounding registration of internet site names escalated last week when the main independent body managing the process, the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced plans to pull out next year.
The move leaves Virginia-based Network Solutions (NSI) in sole charge of allocating internet domain names for Web sites, but the company is facing an antitrust suit as well as increasingly loud calls for the process to be opened up.
The NSF originally took responsibility for registering and managing domain names worldwide when the internet was primarily a non-commercial service used by the scientific community. It now feels the change in the role of the Net has made its involvement inappropriate.
But domain names ? site labels with generic tags, known as top-level domains, such as .com or .edu ? now have a commercial value and so the battle to control them is heating up.
NSI holds a monopoly on assigning domain names with the generic tags, since it was given a grant to take on the responsibility by the NSF. But a group of internet industry bodies last autumn drew up proposals to create top level domains to put in the hands of new registrars.
Progress on this has been slow and a sign of the mounting frustration among those who want a piece of the lucrative registration business was a lawsuit, filed by a New York company, PGP Media, last week. It charged NSI and other internet organisations with violating antitrust laws by keeping sole control of domain names.
Joseph Bordogna, NSF acting deputy director, said it had no plans to review its arrangement with NSI when it backs out of the domain name business. But it may end by mutual agreement if plans to open up registration are adopted by the end of the year.
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