Decision Nears on Contentious Domain Name Service

UPDATED: As ICANN's board of directors get closer to approving a VeriSign-backed service proposed for back-ordering domain names, registrars raise competitive and consumer-protection objections.

The overseer of the Internets domain naming system is closer to approving a controversial service for back-ordering Web addresses.

The subject of past lawsuits and congressional hearings, the wait listing service, or WLS, is expected to be the most contentious issue during next weeks meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in Rome. ICANNs board of directors is scheduled to consider approving the WLS during its March 6 meeting there.

Word of an impending decision on the service began spreading last week among registrars, the companies accredited by ICANN to register Web addresses for consumers and business. ICANN, after its board delayed action on the service last week, posted a January letter outlining the completion of final negotiations with VeriSign Inc., the registry that manages the .com and .net domains and that is seeking to launch the WLS. VeriSign, of Mountain View, Calif., also sent e-mails to registrars about the negotiations.

"The WLS will be a front and center issue in Rome," said Christine Jones, general counsel for registrar GoDaddy Software Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz. "It looks like a decision is imminent, and so many members of the registrar community are opposed to it in its current fashion."

The service, first proposed in 2002, would allow those seeking a particular domain name to pay for the right to claim it in the event the current registration expires. Only one person could place a reservation on a given domain name.

ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey declined to speculate on the likelihood that the board will approve the service next week, but he said that ICANN and its board have considered the full range of opinions on the service.

"You couldnt make the case that there has not been consultation, and you could not make the case that people have not been heard and you could not make the case that the board hasnt considered this carefully," said Twomey, in an interview with eWEEK.com.

Next page: Keeping the pressure on ICANN.