RealTime IT News

ISOC Defends .Org Nod

The Internet Society (ISOC) Thursday fired back at charges that it wasn't qualified to take over the .org domain registry, after an interim evaluation by a team of experts from the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) placed it at the top of a heap of bidders Tuesday.

ISOC was the only one of 11 bidders given a perfect score by ICANN's team of experts, and subsequently awarded the team's seal of approval. The announcement Tuesday, after more than a month's delay, quickly drew rounds of protest within the Internet community.

The team's evaluation is not yet final. Following a comment period, the team will make a final evaluation report. The ICANN board of directors will make its selection sometime after Sept. 23.

Migration is scheduled to begin soon after, with hopes the migration will be completed before ICANN's contract with VeriSign -- the current .org registry -- runs out Dec. 31.

Perhaps the most damning charge surrounding ISOC's nomination revolves around the organization's intention to set up a subsidiary organization, Public Interest Registry (PIR), devoted exclusively to the .org registry business, but essentially controlled by ISOC's board of directors.

The problem is, the organization is only a figment of ISOC's imagination right now. Julie Williams, ISOC spokesperson, said ISOC is currently working on assembling a staff, drafting up by-laws and setting up the infrastructure to accommodate the migration.

"You have to realize that a lot of the bidders had just been established right before the bidding process began, because (ICANN) had unique requirements," she said. "Work has begun, but we're still working out some of the legal requirements right now and will name a board of directors and staff soon."

She added that many of the bidders had as little prepared in the way of a company formed to host the registry business, and that ICANN has a lot of experience working with these situations and took that into account.

The only thing for sure about PIR is the fact its board of directors will be named by ISOC's own board of directors and controlled by ISOC, though "it will be a completely separate organization from ISOC," Williams said.

To avoid charges of creating a puppet empire under an ISOC alias, PIR's board members won't be filled by any existing ISOC director, but by its members. In the end, she said, avoiding criticism will be next to impossible.

"ISOC's membership is so large, made up of so many different high-tech corporations around the world, everyone involved (in technology) would have to recuse themselves from the process," Williams said. "We're like the Red Cross, we have members from everywhere taking part in our organization."

Afilias, owner of the .info top-level domain (TLD), is about the only concrete piece of infrastructure at PIR right now. According to Heather Carle, an Afilias spokesperson, the technology is in place for migration from VeriSign to PIR; all they're waiting for is the go-ahead from ICANN to begin the migration.

Afilias is one of three partners with ISOC in the .org bid. Its successful launch and management of the .info TLD surely may have convinced the team of ICANN experts of the technical viability of the ISOC's bid.

While ISOC maintains PIR will function independently from its parent organization, critics are skeptical of the organization's willingness to abide by its words. The FAQ page on the ISOC Web site originally stated revenues from .org would go to fund ISOC activities:

"Should the bid be successful, revenues will be used to support ISOC programs, which serve the Internet and Internet users throughout the world...the .org registry represents a stable, renewable source of revenue. In our view, this is a win-win for ISOC and all of our constituencies."

Bret Fausett, editor of the popular ICANN blog, posted the excerpt on his site, along with the quip: "The idea that funds from .org registrants will be skimmed to support ISOC programs is not only bad policy but contrary to what the board has previously expressed."

Some officials hinted Fausett's excerpt was taken out of context, though Williams said the statement was taken off the Web site and was the result of a misunderstanding within the organization.

"If you look at page one of our bid with ICANN, it clearly says (the revenues) won't be used to support ISOC programs," Williams said. "No money will go directly to ISOC."

Instead, any revenues generated will be used to fund programs that ISOC feels are important to the Internet community, like outreach and education programs. She would not comment, however, on funding programs that aren't sponsored by ISOC.

In related news
The DotOrg Foundation, one of the other 10 bidders for control of the registry, has problems with the report submitted by the non-commercial committee tasked with overseeing the nomination process.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Marshall Strauss, DotOrg Foundation president, said there were numerous errors in the report submitted to ICANN by the Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency (NCDNHC) panel, despite glowing reviews by two other teams.

"Sadly, this report speaks for itself," he said. "The errors are many, if not profound. Information provided by other bidders were apparently not reviewed by the committee. Text and charts clash; the committee even changed the rules of the game after the bids had been submitted."

NCDNHC is a subset of ICANN's domain name supporting organization (DNSO) and responsible for supporting organizations and individuals who own domain extensions.

An official from the non-commercial team was unavailable for comment at press time.