The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) agreed yesterday to allow VeriSign to manage the lucrative .com domain until at least 2007, and possibly indefinitely.
The decision could be a lucrative one for VeriSign, which will have the right to manage the .com domain in exchange for giving up the rights to .net and .org.
The revision of the original agreement, which gave VeriSign control of all three domains until 2007, was brought about after US Congressmen complained that the company had too much power. But the Telecomms subcommittee of America is still asking for further changes.
Icann claimed, however, that the agreement would "significantly restructure the contractual relationship between Icann and the operator of the world's largest domain name registries".
The new deal lays down separate registry contracts for .com, .net and .org, with each one subject to individual terms. VeriSign's control over .org will expire on 31 December, 2002, and as part of the agreement the firm will not be able to renew the contract. Registration will be handed over to a non-profit organisation instead.
The .net agreement will expire on 1 January, 2006, and will then be subject to a competitive renewal process in which VeriSign and all other interested parties will be able to participate.
The most lucrative contract relating to the .com domain is not due to expire until 10 November, 2007, however, and VeriSign will have a right at this time to renew it for another four-year term.
But the company must also comply with other agreements, which, according to Icann's president and chief executive Stuart Lynn, "provide other substantial benefits, several of which are the direct result of recommendations from Icann's Names Council and its member constituencies".
These include VeriSign agreeing to provide $5m to the non-profit organisation selected to operate the .org registry, and committing to invest at least $200m in research and development and infrastructure technology, including a universal Whois facility.
The firm will also have to remove the $10,000 one-time fee charged to new registrars for initial access to VeriSign registries.
Icann chairman Vint Cerf said the revised agreements "are a significant improvement over the original agreement negotiated in 1999".
"These new agreements reflect both the increasing maturity of Icann and evidence that VeriSign wants to be a co-operative participant in the Icann process, creating a mechanism to ensure effective private-sector administration of this critical global resource for communication and commerce," he added.
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