ICANN unveils domain name registrars, in trial run

The non-profit organisation overseeing the introduction of a new competitive system for registering Internet domain names yesterday announced the four companies and one organisation that will take part in a test phase of the new system.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) selected America Online (http://www.aol.com), the Internet Council of Registrars (Core, at http://core.com), France Telecom SA's Oléane subsidiary (http://www.oleane.com) , Melbourne Information Technologies Australia Pty Ltd (Melbourne IT, at http://ina.com.au) and register.com (http://register.com) to participate as accredited registrars in the test.

The companies will test the shared system designed to introduce competition into the registration of the top-level domains of .com, .net and .org in a two-month trial beginning Monday, ICANN officials said at yesterday.

"The five, while being honored and recognised [yesterday], are not actually the lucky ones," said Esther Dyson, interim chairwoman of ICANN. They are actually part of a learning process, she said.

After the test, Network Solutions Inc (NSI), the Herndon, Virginia-based company that until now has managed domain name registration exclusively under a contract with the US government, will have to grant equal access to registry services to all accredited registrars. At least 25 more accredited registrars are expected to begin offering registration services at the end of June, said Michael Roberts, interim president and chief executive of ICANN.

Negotiators representing the US Commerce Department and NSI reached an agreement that the cost of registering a domain name will be $US9 a registration a year, Roberts said. The price, however, is based on an interim agreement and negotiations will continue.

Officials said the selection of the five organisations was the main step in removing the monopoly the NSI has held.

"There's no reason the [service of registration] should be a monopoly, and it should not be stuck in the US," Dyson said, adding that ICANN's goal all along has been to set policies so that the marketplace can do the work.

"There's an interesting marketplace there," she said. "If imaginations run loose you are going to find interesting services built around domain names."

ICANN, created last year, is a non-profit organisation funded by donations from Internet service providers, information technology and telecommunication companies, including IBM, America Online, Compaq Computer, Microsoft, PSINet, France Telecom and UUNet Technologies.

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