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Username: USC
Date/Time: Thu, October 19, 2000 at 7:14 AM GMT (Wed, October 18, 2000 at 11:14 PM PST)
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer V5.5 using Windows 98
Score: 5
Subject: GO TO WWW.JOINFOCI.ORG........    SUPPORT IMAGE ONLINE DESIGN'S .WEB.......AFILIAS SHMAFILIAS!!!!!!!

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(Excerpt below taken from www.joinfoci.org.  Please visit this website to show your support for IOD.  Don't listen to the minority of people who support Afilias.  Who really wants the big domain giants to get bigger?  This is a chance for smaller, yet equally efficient, registries to come into play.  Please support IOD.  The future of the internet depends on your support of IOD.)


If you're reading this, it's because you have an interest in keeping the Internet safe for competition.

"Safe for competition?" you ask? Like most of us, you probably witness an awful lot of competition on the Internet. Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble fighting over patents, AOL and MSN slugging it out over subscribers, are all indicators of a healthy, thriving Internet economy.

What you might not realize is that, at the very heart of how you navigate the Internet, there is no competition to speak of. We're talking about the Domain Name System (DNS), the mechanism that makes it possible for you to type "www.example.com" (instead of a long number) into your browser and have it take you to your destination.

Let us tell you a story about .Web and .com; a small fry and a behemoth. Bear with us as we meander through some important history. The punchline will really floor you.

At present, you can sign up with a number of different, competing companies to register new names (if you can find them!) in the three most popular Top-Level Domains (TLDs), .com, .net, and .org. Sounds like competition, right? Unfortunately, it's not.

Behind all of those competing "registrars" is one company, Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) , who runs the registry itself. Because they run the registry, where your domain name ultimately "lives", NSI gets a cut of every .com, .net, and .org domain you register, regardless of which actual competing registrar you choose. In effect, the registrars are acting as a "sales force" for NSI's monopoly registry. If you're like us, you've got to be guessing that they're getting pretty fat being the only cats behind that particular curtain.

For many years, the Internet community has been clamoring for the expansion of the Internet's "real estate", the Top-Level Domains. Finally, ICANN , the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (overseers of this entire DNS registry and registrar system), stated their intention to add new TLDs to the Internet, and started the engine on a process to do so. This process, which has been in discussion for four years now, is finally getting to the point where actual proposals for brand new Top-Level Domains are on the table! See the ICANN New TLD Program page for more details.

At this point, you might be inclined to heave a sigh of relief. Don't, just yet. We want to get to the part of the story about the small fry and the behemoth.


The small fry, in this case, is Image Online Design, Inc. The behemoth is the aforementioned Network Solutions, Inc., the monopoly that owns the registry for the .com, .net, and .org TLDs.

Not to bore you, but the short history is that Image Online Design built a proof-of-concept registry for a new TLD called ".Web" well over four years ago. They, in the form of engineer Christopher Ambler, beat their heads against a number of walls for a number of years to stir up positive motion on getting new TLDs like .Web recognized by the Internet as a whole.

That means that they were one of the groundbreakers that started this whole call for competition! Through open debate, and their work on the proof-of-concept registry, they helped shape the process that ICANN is now using to bring competition to this important part of the Internet's infrastructure.

Community support was essential to Image Online Design's ability to prove that a new TLD would be viable. Over the course of four years, Image Online Design received over 20,000 registrations for names in the .Web TLD. That's significant when you consider that none of those domain names will be visible to the average Internet user unless and until ICANN endorses Image Online Design's .Web registry. The names were registered, largely, as a show of support for the concept of new TLDs, and in support of Image Online Design's attempts to prove the viability of new TLDs through the .Web experiment.

It's also significant when you consider that Image Online Design never bought a page of advertising, printed a T-Shirt, or sponsored a sporting event in support of their registry! All of those 20,000 registrations have come in through word of mouth or by direct, supportive participants in the technical discussion.

Now that Image Online Design has proven the concept, and ICANN has opened the field to competition, the behemoth, the 900 pound gorilla, the playground bully, Network Solutions, Inc., has lumbered into the game and is trying to steal the ball from the small fry. Under the name "Afilias" , NSI has teamed up with 18 of the registrars currently beholden to them for access to the .com, .net, and .org registry. Formed in September, 2000, just in time to submit their October 2, 2000 application to ICANN, Afilias isn't satisfied with .info or .site; they want to own the .Web TLD, too!

Of course, we expect NSI and the current registrars to weigh in with a proposal to deliver a new TLD. But, are we alone in thinking that it's nothing but sinister and greedy of them to want .Web? Why are we so incensed about this? Because we want there to be competition in the very heart of the commercial Internet. This is nothing but a clear ploy by NSI to don sheep's clothing (operating as Afilias) and extend their monopolistic power over the Internet's Domain Name System. We do NOT want all of the useful domain registrations running through NSI's hands. We're old enough, in Internet years, to remember when registering a domain was straightforward and cheap, and then when it was painful and arduous because there was no competition and no incentive to improve.

Competition in this most central part of the Domain Name System is critically important. It encourages innovation, keeps prices in check, and spreads the wealth among more participants. Letting NSI and its affiliated registrars scoop up .Web is hardly competitive! They already have .com, .net, and .org. It's time to let others in!

As a final note, we encourage you to be critical of what you hear on this issue (even from us!). Afilias has hired an exceptionally large PR firm, Hill and Knowlton , and an exceptionally expensive law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP

In contrast, Image Online Design has asked us to help them out, and we've jumped in wholeheartedly because we're engineers ( geeks ) who care about the future of the Internet. The difference between the small fry and the bully should be clear: Afilias spends what we must assume is an enormous sum on PR, Image Online Design spends what they have on proving .Web's viability, and on producing a sound proposal (which, incidentally, has been available for public review since Image Online Design submitted it to ICANN, unlike Afilias' proposal, which is hidden behind veils of "confidentiality").

We hope we've convinced you that this issue is important. If you'd like to help the small fry set a precedent, check out the "Learn How To Help" section to explore what you can do. Even if you're not that compelled by our rant, please at least forward this note to a few people who you think might be interested.

Thank you for your time!

 


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