ICANN approves contract changes with VeriSign

Computerworld |  Networking

The board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved a hotly debated new agreement with VeriSign Inc. to give the company continued oversight of the lucrative .com Internet domain name registry through 2007.

The board of ICANN, the group responsible for managing the Internet's domain name system, approved the action by a 12-4 vote at a meeting yesterday, said Stuart Lynn, president and CEO of Marina del Ray, Calif.-based ICANN, in a conference call.

Lynn said the changes are being made because conditions are different in the domain name marketplace since the contracts were created. Originally, the contracts assumed that competition in the market would develop slowly. Instead, a healthy level of competition helped bring about the need for amended agreements, he said.

"We believe that there's very active competition out there," Lynn said.

The new agreement is subject to review and approval by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign.

Also approved were two related agreements that extend VeriSign's oversight of the .net domain registry until January 2006 and that will end the company's administration of the .org registry by the end of next year.

ICANN said last month that it wanted to return the .org domain to its original mission as a central database for Web sites used by nonprofit groups. Under the new agreement, VeriSign will create a $5 million endowment to help set up a nonprofit entity to operate the .org registry.

In 1999, the administration of the .com, .net and .org domain name registries were awarded by ICANN and the Commerce Department to the former Network Solutions Inc., which was later acquired by VeriSign. The company oversees the registries and also operates a division that registers Web site names for applicants.

The original agreement with ICANN required the company to divest ownership of either of its registry or registrar businesses in order to extend its operating agreements for administering the registries for four years beyond the 2003 expiration of the current contract.

During a one-month public comment period on ICANN's Web site last month, some critics of the proposed agreements said the deal was too friendly to VeriSign by giving the company preferential treatment to continue to administer the .com registry.

VeriSign will now administer the .net registry until the end of 2005, after which it would be opened to competitive bids. In exchange, the company will be given first dibs on renewing its administration agreement over the popular .com registry through a "presumption favoring renewal" as long as the company meets its contract obligations.

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