AOL to promote Network Solutions

Network Solutions (NSI) and America Online (AOL) have announced a "multiyear, multimillion-dollar strategic marketing alliance." AOL will feature NSI's Internet domain-name registration services in cobranded Web sites on AOL properties such as AOL.com, CompuServe, Netscape Netcenter, Digital City and ICQ.

"NSI and AOL are global leaders, and together, we will help countless small businesses and individuals make a name for themselves on the Internet," said Jim Rutt, chief executive officer of NSI, in a statement.

Though neither company would say exactly how many years or how many millions of dollars are involved, the alliance will certainly help NSI keep the pole position in the domain-name registration market. The company, which enjoyed a government-granted monopoly on registrations until 1998, says it has registered more than 10 million domain names. NSI's closest competitor, Register.com Inc., says it has registered a little more than 1.5 million names since competition for name registrations began in June 1998.

On March 7, VeriSign, an online security company, announced that it would buy NSI in a deal initially valued at $US21 billion. Shareholders in both companies are scheduled to vote on the merger in separate meetings on June 8. AOL said it would promote some VeriSign services in its business channel.

Opening the domain-name registration market to competition has been the biggest accomplishment so far for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit entity responsible for the technical administration of the Internet. ICANN is mulling the creation of new generic "top-level" Internet domains to relieve the crush of registrations in the existing .com, .net and .org domains.

Ironically, NSI's competitors have reason to celebrate the new partnership. That's because the alliance signals that AOL, which is also an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar, is not planning to aggressively market its own registration services.

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