ICANN Announces Five New Registrars, Including AOL

In an attempt to break up the monopoly that is Network Solutions Inc. (NSI, www.networksolutions.com), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced five companies, including America Online Inc. (www.aol.com), that were selected to participate in the initial testbed phase of the new competitive "Shared Registry System" for the .com, .net and .org domains.

The other four registrars are the Internet Council of Registrars (CORE, www.coreinc.com), France Telecom/Oleane (www.oleane.com), Melbourne IT (http://ina.com.au) and Register.com (www.register.com).

Under the cooperative agreement signed between NSI and the U.S. government, the competitive registrar testbed program will run from April 26 to June 24. Following the conclusion of Phase I, the Shared Registry System for the domains will be opened on equal terms to all registrars that meet ICANN's standards for accreditation and will be able to enter the market as a registrar and offer customers competitive domain name registration services.

For its part, Network Solutions feels domain registration is a big market, and it will work with the new registrars to tap into it. "We believe the potential market to be more than 100 million domain names," says Bob Korzeniewski, chief financial officer for NSI. "There is room for many successful players and we will continue to be a leader in this space. With our four million registrations, we have just started to tap the market's potential."

When the new process is in place, NSI can sit back and relax a bit. No matter what company registers the domain, NSI still gets a piece of the pie. For the 60-day test phase, NSI will receive $18 per Web address from the new registrars for each initial two-year period and $9 for one-year renewals. NSI's two-year fee is $70.

In addition to the five testbed participants, ICANN also announced the 29 other applicant companies that have met its accreditation criteria and are expected to be accredited to compete as registrars at the end of Phase I. The list includes AT&T (www.att.net). Another company on the list, NetNames Intl. (www.netnames.com) has been a force in the non-U.S. market for registering international domains.

ICANN's decision to open domain name registry in no way means the end of U.S. Justice Department pressure on NSI. The DOJ claims the company violated anti-trust laws by monopolizing the master list of names and Web addresses in generic top-level domains. Recently, the Justice Department requested further information from NSI to find if it is breaking the law. The registrar announced that it is complying with the DOJ's requests.