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The Industry Standard – Domain Do-gooders

Wednesday, September 9, 1998

The Industry Standard
By Elizabeth Wasserman

Some of the Internet’s largest corporate tenants are passing the cup around, seeking to raise $500,000 to fund the new nonprofit corporation that will oversee the administration of domain names when the U.S. government bows out of the business Sept. 30.

These high-tech companies, under the umbrella of the Global Internet Project, said they want to provide the “seed money” to nudge the evolution of self-governance over the distribution of names and addresses in cyberspace. The group has already raised $135,000 from IBM, MCI, GTE, Cisco and Ascend, organizers said Wednesday.

“This is a ‘good citizenship’ move to keep the Internet going,” said Vint Cerf, MCI’s senior VP of Internet architecture and engineering. “We will not accept pledges in excess of $50,000. No one company should dominate. This should be a team effort with no strings attached.”

The funding will help support the new nonprofit corporation that is being formed to address the future of the most popular top-level domains – such as .com, .org and .net – and any new domains that may be created. Until now, the administration of domain names has been handled, through a government contract, by Network Solutions of Herndon, Va., and the unique numbers underlying each Internet address have been assigned through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Both contracts expire at the end of this month but could be extended during the transition.

In the meantime, a variety of Internet “stakeholders” – companies and interest groups – have been trying to reach consensus on plans to reform the system. In June, the Clinton administration issued its final plan for ending U.S. government control over these Internet functions. The plan left many of the details, such as how many new domains to add and how to resolve trademark disputes, up to the as-yet-unformed corporation. But it did set in motion a process, under which IANA is being reorganized with a new board and a new charter, although it did not settle the question of funding.

The Global Internet Project is made up of 13 large corporations, including IBM, MCI, GTE, Netscape, British Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. John Patrick, chairman of the group and vice president of Internet technology for IBM, said the members have no interest in influencing the outcome of the process – just in supporting it. “The Global Internet Project is interested in the strength and health of the Internet,” he said. “We’re not trying to mandate or control or dictate or establish … but rather, trying to raise awareness about the importance of this issue and move the ball forward.”

Non-GIP members interested in contributing can visit the organization’s Web site, www.witsa.org/gip, for further information.