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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Domain name auction row
Network Solutions
Network Solutions is selling off unpaid for domains
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

The owners of domain names who have not paid their registration fee could find their corner of the internet sold off to the highest bidder.

Network Solutions, a domain name registrar, has told the owners of names yet to pay renewal or registration fees that they have only a few days left to hand over the cash.

If the money is not forthcoming it says it will auction the names, with thousands expected to come under the hammer.

Domain names are lucrative pieces of virtual real estate and Network Solutions looks likely to make far more from the auction than the $35 per year it usually charges.

Bad for business

If companies do not settle their debts before 5 July, they would be forced into an auction for their own name.

Network Solutions is capping the auctions to ensure bids do not get out of hand.

The maximum for bid for each one will be the amount that Network Solutions is owed.

However if a company loses control of its name it might have to pay a huge sum to the new owner to get it back.

Last year the business.com domain name was sold for $7.5 million.

"Cashing in"

The auction has been condemned by Network Solutions' competitors such as Register.com and Afternic.

They say NSI is trying to cash in on its domain name dominance.

The actions of Network Solutions have been reported to the the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that has taken over management of the domain name system.

Icann says it is investigating to see if the auction breaks Network Solutions' terms of agreement.

Until last year Network Solutions was the only company that could register domain names.

Now there are hundreds of companies willing to register domain names on the internet ending .com, .org and .net. Network Solutions remains the biggest and has handled more than 10 million registrations since 1993.

The scrap over domain names looks set to intensify in the next few weeks as Icann unveils new top level domains.

At the moment the top level domains include .com, .net, .org, .edu, .int, .mil, and .gov. Beyond these are country domains such as .uk and .fr.

Icann has yet to say what names will be chosen as top level domains and how many there will be.

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See also:

15 Nov 99 | e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
07 Mar 00 | Business
Dot.com registrar sold for $21bn
03 Jan 00 | Business
2000 web address sold for $10m
02 Dec 99 | Business
The $7.5m net address
23 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
'Mortgages' for domain names
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