Melbourne, Australia - the Internets domain-name management body spent a good part of its quarterly meeting here grappling over the terms of its agreement with VeriSign, the biggest player in the domain-name market. In the end, it put a new configuration of that agreement out for public comment and scheduled a vote for April 2.
The outcome will have important implications for the future management of domain names, the bedrock on which the commercial Web is built.
Currently, VeriSign subsidiary Network Solutions Inc. controls the lucrative registry, or database of registered domain names, for dot-com, dot-net and dot-org, and also operates a registrar business retailing domain-name registrations.
At the meeting last week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers considered altering a 1999 deal it entered into with the Department of Commerce and NSI; that deal allows the company to continue its control of the registry for the three top domains until 2007 — if it sells off its registrar business by May 10. NSI receives $6 per year for each name registered.
Under the revised agreement put forward at the meeting, VeriSign would operate the registry for dot-com until 2007, with a presumptive right of renewal, and hold onto its registrar business. It would also give up control over the dot-org registry by 2002, and would have to compete with other companies after 2006 to operate the dot-net registry.
The debate centers on how each version affects competition.
ICANN officials said the 1999 agreement was a "bad deal" and would have made it difficult for the board not to renew VeriSigns registry control for all three domains. The new deal, they said, gives ICANN more oversight of VeriSign. If ICANN rejects the new deal, VeriSign officials said they would sell its registrar operations.
But some of VeriSigns competitors complained that they werent being given enough time to weigh the impact of the new deal.