RealTime IT News

Battle for Control of .org Begins

The battle for control of the .org top-level domain registry began in earnest Tuesday as the deadline for bid proposals set by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) passed.

The day ended with 11 bids, most of them by non-commercial organizations allied with for-profit partners.

The bids represent the first step in the transfer of management of the domain registry away from VeriSign , which inherited the registry -- as well as the .com and .net registries -- when it acquired Network Solutions Inc. Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign agreed to give up control of the .org registry in April 2001 as part of a deal it brokered with ICANN to prevent a break-up into separate registrar and registry businesses. The U.S. Department of Commerce approved the deal in May 2001.

The .org TLD was initially intended as a special-purpose TLD for non-commercial organizations, but that stricture has not been strictly enforced, largely due to the difficulties inherent in proving that registrants represent non-commercial interests.

The bidders include:
  • The DotOrg Foundation, based in Washington, D.C. and partnered with Registry Advantage and Kintera Inc.
  • The Global Name Registry Ltd., an alliance of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, based in London
  • The Internet Multicasting Service Inc. (IMS) and Internet Software Consortium Inc. (ISC), an alliance of some of the top names in the Internet engineering field, including Carl Malamud -- founder of the non-profit IMS (which created the first Internet radio station) and perhaps best known for getting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to put its EDGAR database online -- and Paul Vixie, who is considered the primary modern author and technical architect of BINDv8, a founder of the ISC, and co-founder of the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS); the group is based in Stewart Point, Calif.
  • The Internet Society (ISOC), the umbrella organization for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and Internet Research Task Force (IRTF); ISOC is based in Reston, Va. and has partnered with Afilias Ltd. (operator of the .info registry), IBM, ULTRA DNS and DSI Technology Escrow Services Inc. to make its bid
  • NeuStar Inc., based in Washington, D.C., operator of the .us registry as well as the North American Numbering Plant which assigns all telephone numbers in the U.S.
  • The .Org Foundation, based in Bellevue, Wash., and allied with registrar eNom Inc.
  • Organic Names Ltd., based in London and allied with alternative registrar CentralNic Ltd.
  • Register ORGanization Inc., based in New York, NY., and allied with Register.com Inc.
  • SWITCH Swiss Academic and Research Network, a foundation established by the Swiss Confederation and the eight university cantons to promote modern methods of data transmission and to set up and run an academic and research network in Switzerland; partnered with DNS hosting firm Nominum Inc., and European colocation provider IX Europe Telehouse
  • Union of International Associations, based in Brussels, Belgium and partnered with VeriSign Inc.; the Union is a non-profit information clearinghouse for global civil service registries
  • Unity Registry, a partnership between British firm Poptel, which manages the .coop domain, and AusRegistry, which manages the .au country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Australia.

ICANN hopes to have all the proposals posted to its Web site within a week.

Most of the applicants Wednesday attempted to make a show of their devotion to the non-commercial community. "As a non-profit, we're totally devoted to the non-profit world," said Nadia McLaren, project manager for the Union of International Associations, at a roundtable discussion hosted by The Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C. Wednesday.

McLaren noted that while the Union has partnered with VeriSign to provide back-end services in its bid, the Union expects to hold a new bidding process for that role within three years. She said it would like to give the contract to a non-profit provider.

Unity Registry took a different tack than the other applicants. At the same roundtable, David Johnson, a consultant with Unity Registry, said, "Unlike some, we believe in a viable business model." Still, Johnson said Unity's proposal includes the creation of a "user cooperative." Also, the Unity would contribute 10 percent of its net tax profit (before tax) for things like sending representatives from .orgs to ICANN meetings which couldn't otherwise afford to go.

At the other end of the spectrum is the IMS and ISC bid. Malamud said his group would run the .org registry as a "public trust," and even said it would publish all its software as open source code. "That seemed a no-brainer to us when we were considering this," he told internetnews.com Wednesday morning. "It seems like it's pretty important to the marketplace."

He added, "One of the things that we're offering is that we're going to plow all of the money into the infrastructure for the people that are using .org." Additionally, his group pledged 8 percent of its gross revenues to ISOC to support the efforts of the IETF and IAB.

ISOC, meanwhile, put forward its own bid. Holding its own conference Wednesday morning, the organization said it would create a not-for-profit corporation dubbed Public Interest Registry (PIR), with Afilias as its back-end services provider. David Maher, vice president of Public Affairs for ISOC, said PIR would have separate officers and directors from ISOC.

Lynn St. Amour, president and CEO of ISOC, said the combination of ISOC's ties to the global non-commercial community and its international, non-commercial infrastructure -- together with Afilias' experience in running the .info registry -- makes it a natural choice to operate the .org registry.

Ken Hansen, director of Corporate Development for NeuStar, said that his company's bid focuses on a clean transition for domain holders. "We've been out talking to the non-commercial community, and they tell us they want a clean transition from VeriSign," he said. Also, NeuStar proposes the creation of a .org Global Policy Council, which would include "the entire spectrum of non-commercial community members from all geographic regions."

ICANN will hold a public forum on the applications with presentations by the applicants during its meeting in Bucharest, Romania on June 27, and will establish examination fees based on the number of applications the following day (each applicant was required to provide an interim examination fee of $35,000 with their applications). ICANN said the examination fees will not be greater than $35,000, and the difference will be returned to applicants if the fee turns out to be less.

Additionally, ICANN will publish a draft evaluation report of the bids on July 22. Comments on the draft evaluation will be accepted until Aug. 1. The final evaluation report and recommendation report will be presented to the ICANN board and posted on the organization's Web site on Aug. 8. The organization is expected to make its selection by late August.