Single-letter domain names on Net agenda

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Internet overseers gather this week in Vancouver

Peter Wilson

The future of the Internet is on the table this week as more than 1,000 web experts, gurus and tech company executives get together in Vancouver.

Starting Wednesday, the little-known but powerful California-based non-profit corporation that oversees domain names such as .com, .net and .ca as well as Net addresses will hold its first North American meeting in two and a half years.

At this gathering, run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the industry will discuss such issues as:

– The criticism by some countries that the U.S. uses ICANN to effectively control the Internet;

– The constant need for increased Net security;

– The possible release of single-letter domain names like, and — for which the bidding could become fierce if ICANN abandons its first-come, first-served policy of handing out domains;

– Whether Internet costs will skyrocket as the result of a recent ICANN agreement with the private corporation VeriSign, which administers the .com registry.

Among the major figures present for the meeting will be Google executive Vint Cerf, who sometimes is called “the father of the Internet” and who is the chair of ICANN.

Cerf’s take on U.S. control, as expressed in a recent interview in Newsweek, is that the Internet is owned by businesses, by Internet service providers, by anyone with a computer attached to the Net and by governments, but not by ICANN and not by the U.S.

Also taking a role at the meeting will be Vancouver-based Frank Fowlie, a former RCMP officer and UN peacekeeper, who was recently appointed ICANN’s new ombudsman.

The hottest topic at the event will be the prospect of increased fees for domain name registration, said Ari Farshchian, CEO of the meeting’s co-sponsor, CircleID, an online trade journal that covers the Internet core infrastructure.

“A lot of the folks that are coming here, a lot of the registrars that sell the domains are unhappy because it has the potential of raising the cost of .com,” Farshchian said in an interview. “That’s probably the primary issue that’s going to be discussed because the price of a .com domain is something that affects everybody.”

Last week’s decision in Tunisia at the World Summit on the Internet Society, to leave ICANN in charge of domain names and Net addresses, despite a growing international demand that ICANN give up control, could also spark some lively debate.

As it is now a new UN organization — without any legislative power — will serve as a forum for discussion of Internet management.

“Countries are becoming very aware of the Internet,” said Farshchian. “For example .ca is considered a Canadian landmark, so to speak and that same feeling extends to all the other countries.

“They want to have a say in what happens and how decisions are made and that issue is becoming more and more serious and is going to be discussed here at length.”

The agreement with VeriSign results from a lawsuit which VeriSign launched after its Site Finder service — which intercepted lost surfers and made suggestions as to which sites they might like to visit — was ordered shut down by ICANN.

Critics of Site Finder said that VeriSign sometimes got money for directing traffic to the sites it suggested.

The new ICANN-VeriSign agreement could see the current $6 US annual .com site registration fee paid to VeriSign rise to $9 by the end of its contract in 2012.

In its turn, VeriSign would pass back a 37-cents-a-name fee to ICANN.


© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Comments are closed.