ISSUE 517: The high tech office- Sept
ICANN means businesses can go online more easily
If you're considering putting your business on
the Net (and if you're not, are you prepared to lose sales to those of
your competitors who have? -- but that's an issue for a different
column), then you've got to think of getting your own domain name or
An Internet domain name is part trademark and part, as
the real estate agents might put it, "location, location, location."
Up until now, getting a domain name, especially if you
want one ending in those magic letters, .com, has often been a
bit of a mess.
Since 1992, Virginia-based Network Solutions Inc.
(NSI) was the only way to get an address in the COM domain. The
poly offered notoriously bad service. Individuals took ad-
vantage of the mess by snapping up potential do-
main names on spec, then offering to sell them to companies looking to
set up shop online. NSI's response to domain name disputes was to put
the disputed name on hold, often resulting in lost time and frivolous
About a year ago, the U.S. government recognized the
nonprofit organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN), and gave them the task of opening up the
domain name registration business.
As a result, about 50 domain name registrars,
including Vancouver-based NetNation (www.netnation.com),
are scheduled to set up shop by the end of the year. The companies will
be certified by ICANN, which will work behind the scenes matching up
names with the numerical addresses. While still primarily U.S.-based,
ICANN includes international representatives and has certified domain
name registrars worldwide.
All this promises to make getting and keeping the name
you want quicker and easier.
ICANN is proposing that cases involving disputed names
be submitted to binding arbitration. Today, the practice of collecting
names for resale to an offline trademark holder is considered bad
"The major benefit of the dispute resolution policy is
that people who register domain names -- businesses or individuals --
will have a much clearer idea of what their rights are," said Esther
Dyson, ICANN's interim chair.
As well, arbitration will likely lead to quicker and
cheaper resolution than NSI's existing policy.
Unfortunately, the promised system is running into
difficulties. Even though ICANN is a creation of the U.S. government,
it's being sniped at in Congress, in part for internationalizing domain
name registration. It's been accused of being part of a conspiracy to
set up a world government!
ICANN has been over-
ly secretive, holding key meetings behind closed doors, while running
itself with a "temporary," non-elected board. Ralph Nader's Citizen
Advisory Center accused ICANN of trying to hold itself
"nonaccountable." And even though it was set up without any clear idea
of how it was to be funded, the group has gotten flack for suggesting
that it pay its bills by getting $1 for every domain name registered.
Meanwhile, NSI is still in power, with its operating
licence extended by the U.S. government from its original 1998 expiry
to late next year. The company claims to own the key domain name
database, thereby restricting access by other potential name
registrars. It has even suggested that when its government contract
expires next September, it won't turn that database over to its
While the rules for getting your company the Web
address you want remain up in the air, a behind the scenes crisis has
been quietly averted.
When you type in a Web address, say www.biv.com
to contact Business in Vancouver's Web site, your Internet
vider looks that phrase up in a database and quickly translates it into
the real Internet address: 204.244.112.
063. Such 12-digit numbers allow for 4 billion possible addresses,
which -- believe it or not -- raised real possibilities of the Internet
ning out of addresses in the near future.
But after four years of testing, the Internet
Assigned Numbers Auth-
ority has rolled out Internet Protocol version 6 (Ipv6). This
allows for (as Carl Sagan would have said) "billions and
billions of addresses" -- enough for a future in which even household
appliances will all have their own Internet address. Actual
implementation is expected to take six to 10 years as new generations
of the hardware routers connecting up to the Internet get upgraded to
support the new standard.
Computers work with numbers. People, however, prefer
more easy-to-remember names. Recently, the online Wired News
checked 25,500 common dictionary words and found that only 1,760 were
still available as addresses in the COM domain. You can check whether
your business's name is still available at www.checkdomain.com.