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Saturday, 19 May, 2001, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Net names deal reached
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The US Government has allowed a Californian company to retain control of the lucrative .com web domain, which accounts for roughly three quarters of all internet addresses.

It has approved a deal under which domain registrar Verisign will keep control of internet addresses ending in .com, but it will have to give up control of the .org domain.

The agreement follows concerns by the US Justice Department about Verisign's dominance in the market and is intended to allow greater competition in the business of registering internet addresses.

Although who runs the suffix will not directly affect how people navigate the internet, it could affect such things as prices for domain names.

Concerns about competition

The general terms of the deal were originally hammered out between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) and Verisign in April. But is was subject to US approval, as the Commerce Department has the power to veto Icann decisions.

Domain names are key to finding websites and sending e-mail, and Verisign runs databases for the three most popular domain name suffixes: .com, .net and .org, controlling 50% of the market.

Verisign and its predecessor, Network Solutions, have been running the domain name databases for the government since 1992.

Following this deal, Verisign will keep control of the popular .com domain until 2007 and can renew its control at that point. It earns $6 for each name registered.

Rights to the .org domain and $5 million will be given to a nonprofit organization in 2002. Competitive bidding for the .net domain will be moved up to June 2005, six months earlier than originally planned.

Antitrust clause

Verisign agreed that approval of the deal did not exempt it from antitrust laws.

It also agreed to undergo annual audits to ensure that it is keeping separate the business of signing up customers for the internet addresses from the business of maintaining those domains.

"It certainly provides us clarity to move forward in our business and gives us the focus we've been seeking," said company spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy.

Critics had termed the Icann deal a windfall for a large company and complained that it was negotiated in secret with almost no community input.

"I thought it would be a rubber-stamp, but it looks like it was slightly less than rubber-stamp," said Larry Elrich, president of competing registry

"The only ray of hope is the fact that they agreed that they don't have the immunity to antitrust."

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See also:

10 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Net name chaos grows
13 Nov 00 | Health
WHO bid to regulate health sites
19 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Money for nothing
04 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Paying for the net name
04 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Domain name auction row
07 Mar 00 | Business registrar sold for $21bn
15 Nov 99 | e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
02 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Net body rewrites the address book
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