The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.
The Internet for the
By Scott Bradner
The U.S. government late
last month issued the first draft of its
proposal for internationalizing and institutionalizing management -
some people would say governance - of Internet domain names and
addresses. The plan, called A Proposal to Improve Technical
Management of Internet Names and Addresses (www.ntia.doc.gov),
is expected to be revised after a comment period.
The draft proposal lacks specifics in a number of areas that will need
to be detailed in any final plan. This sketchiness is good, however,
since it will force people reviewing the proposal to focus on concepts
rather than minutia.
The concepts are important. The proposal would turn much of the
management of the Internet's technical aspects over to the Internet
community. The basic management entity would be a U.S.
not-for-profit corporation, but the corporation's board would be
heavily international and biased to include those that have made the
Internet a success as well as organizations that depend on the 'Net.
There would be no continuing management control over the Internet's
technical aspects by the U.S. government or any other national
That is not to say that governments will not continue to try to be
involved in Internet commerce, security and content policies. This
proposal is a big step, but one that is vital if the Internet is to escape
the technological lethargy that has hampered traditional
Half the board would be filled with Internet user representatives,
including individual end users, not-for-profit organizations and
commercial users. The other half would be appointed by groups that
represent the IP address registries, domain name registries and
registrars, and the Internet standards creation process.
The new organization would help define and oversee rules for creating
new top-level domains, the root name servers and the allocation of IP
The proposal talks a lot about domain names, and there are some real
problems with the proposal in this area. The proposal seems to
support for-profit ownership of top-level domains, the very kind of
monopoly that led to the mess we are now in. It also hints, but does
not specifically say, that all new domain name registries would be able
to register names in all non-country code top-level domains, including
.com, .net and .org. This is not a small detail. The willingness of new
name registry organizations to accept the proposal will depend
significantly on what it really means on this matter.
This proposal will have significant opponents. The traditional
telecommunications industry will try to do through rule-setting what it
could not do in the real world: play a real role in the Net. Some
libertarians will question the U.S. government's authority to play a
role here. People who saw an opportunity to create a monopoly by
overseeing certain domain names now see their pot of gold
evaporating. This proposal is a watershed, and the thrust vector is in
the right quadrant.
Disclaimer: As part of the IETF and IP Address group, I may be
affected by the proposal, but the comments are mine, not those of
Harvard (which is suspicious of governments that are two-thirds its