ICANN Considering Lottery for New Registrars

The Internet Corp. for
Assigned Names and Numbers
is considering an international lottery to
pick the five companies that will be the first competitive domain name
registrars once Network Solutions loses
its government-granted monopoly.

According to published reports, Esther Dyson, ICANN’s interim chairperson,
hopes to see competition for registering the three most popular top-level
domains, those ending in .com, .net and .org, by the end of April.

Since 1993, that task has been handled by Network Solutions, which
currently charges $70 for registering the names. The company recently
announced it had registered 3 million domain names.

Dyson said ICANN was putting together a panel of 10 experts to work with
Network Solutions on the technical aspects required to bring competition to
the domain market. That group will also establish criteria that prospective
registrars must meet.

Dyson said since it’s likely that more than five companies will apply, a
lottery would probably be the most effective way to decide which ones would
get the nod. She did say there would be “special provisions” in place that
would insure geographic diversity. ICANN’s critics have accused the group
in the past of being too U.S.-centric.

ICANN is limiting the number of initial competitors because several issues
must be handled before full-scale competition can begin. Those include how
to structure the supporting organizations — regional Internet address
registries and others with legitimate interest in domain name issues.

ICANN’s bylaws allow the body to delegate substantial policy development to
the supporting organizations. ICANN has taken the view that putting the
decisions closer to Internet professionals will produce better results and
better working relationships.

Once new registrars are established, Network Solutions will be required to
transfer registrations of top-level domain names to competitors if their
customers desire to move to one of the new registrars.

However, many expect Network Solutions’ business to thrive since it has
been sealing partnerships with a number of companies, including Netscape Communications Inc. and Yahoo!.

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