ICANN Gives Palestinians a Home on the Web

WASHINGTON (03/22/2000) - The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has granted a new Internet domain name to the Palestinian territories.

ICANN's subsidiary organization, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), delegated ".ps" to the Palestinian territories and named the Palestinian Authority's Government Computer Center as the domain's administrator.

Despite ICANN's protestations to the contrary, the designation is fraught with political implications. The Palestinians' decades-long struggle for international recognition is one of the planet's most intractable political issues. The Palestinian Authority administers semiautonomous territories that ultimately are controlled by Israel.

ICANN insists that it awarded the domain only because Palestine is on the United Nations International Standards Organization 3166-1 list, which tallies two-letter technical codes for countries, territories and other areas. In a statement, ICANN noted a U.N. disclaimer to the effect that inclusion on the ISO 3166-1 list does not imply official U.N. recognition.

"The IANA similarly makes no assessment of political status of an area in assigning country-code top-level domains," said the organization in the statement. ICANN noted that a Palestinian application submitted in 1997 was denied because Palestine wasn't on the ISO 3166-1 list at that time.

The new country-code top-level Internet domain joins more than 200 others granted to independent countries and some island territories, such as Puerto Rico. It's the first new top-level domain created since ICANN formed in 1998 to administer the Internet's technical functions.

ICANN is wrestling with how to create new generic top-level domains to relieve the logjam of names occupying the existing .com, .net and .org domains. It's also embroiled in a running dispute between governments and administrators of many existing country-code domains. At a recent ICANN board meeting in Cairo, Egypt, the Internet's governing body continued to strive for balance between narrow technical administration and political decision-making.

ICANN has expressed confidence that the designated domain managers have the necessary technical capability as well as the public support of the Palestinian Authority and of Internet users in the Palestinian territories.

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