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Pledge Drive For New Domain System Kicks Off

Wednesday, September 9, 1998

By John Borland, TechWeb

A group of technology companies kicked off a campaign Wednesday to raise half a million dollars in seed money for a domain-name policy-making group.

Led by IBM and MCI, the Global Internet Project is holding an old-fashioned pledge drive this month. The group has already raised $135,000 in pledges from five companies. The money will go to fund a new non-profit corporation scheduled to take over management of the Internet domain-name system.

“We recognize that getting this non-profit corporation in place is going to require some start-up funding,” said John Patrick, chairman of the Global Internet Project and a vice-president of Internet technology at IBM.

The proposed new corporation will replace the U.S. government as the Internet’s domain-name policy-making body. Once in place, it will deal with controversial questions such as when and how to add new top-level domains.

The government has given the technology industry free rein to decide how to create the organization, prompting months of heated debate in a series of international meetings, as well as online. But the process finally appears to be nearing an end.

Several draft proposals have been circulating. Network Solutions (NSI), the company that has long contracted with the U.S. government to register .com, .org, and .net domain names, and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that now manages the technical side of the Net’s address system, have posted several drafts for public comment.

Representatives of the two groups are reportedly meeting to work out differences in their drafts.

The prominent last-minute role taken by NSI and IANA has ruffled some feathers in the broader Internet community, however. “The problem is that nobody knows what’s going on behind closed doors,” said Dan Steinberg, a Quebec-based technical policy consultant who has taken an active role in the International Forum on the White Paper, a coalition of Net interest groups, ISPs, and individuals.

The leaders of the corporate pledge drive said their financial support would not be affected by the ongoing debate, however.

“This pledge is being made independent of the outcome of the current discussions,” said Vint Cerf, an MCI senior vice president and creator of the TCP/IP protocol. Cerf joined Patrick in a press conference announcing the pledge drive Wednesday. “We are not engaging in this for the purpose of taking sides or influencing the outcomes,” he said.

Companies or individuals who want to contribute to the pledge drive should contact the Global Internet Project, Cerf said.