The non profit board responsible for opening the Internet's lucrative domain name registration may use an international lottery to pick the five companies that will have first crack at the business.
The five companies will replace the government sanctioned monopoly held by Network Solutions. Esther Dyson, interim chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, confirmed this week that the registry for the three top level domains - .com, .net and .org - will be open to competition as early as the end of April.
Network Solutions has had exclusive global rights to assigning Internet addresses that end with the three top level suffixes since 1993. It has assigned three million addresses since then at a charge of $70 per address, growing its business rapidly.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is now working with Network Solutions and 10 experts to work out the technical issues involved in opening the register up to competition.
Dyson said that if more than five applicants apply and reach the criteria necessary it may well be forced to hold a lottery. Special selection processes, however, will be used to make sure that not all the applicants are from Europe, for example.
Network Solutions has not been sitting around twiddling its thumbs. Before Christmas it announced alliances with Netscape Communications and Yahoo.
It has a government guarantee that it will still be a registrar once competition has been opened up and has been creating a network of 85 international partners to handle global registrations. It is still talking to other prospective partners.
Competition in the registration system will be one of the first significant differences consumers will actually notice. Once the system is open Network Solutions will have to transfer registration addresses ending in .com, .net and .org to competitiors if customers would prefer to do business with another company.
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