Controller of interner names is sued....

Controller of Internet names is sued over .web addresses

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb 27, 1997 9:43 p.m. EST) -- Breaking a 25-year Internet
of consensus, a California company filed suit against the organization
that rules
over online addresses.

The suit, filed Thursday by Christopher Ambler of Image Online Design
Inc., charges
that the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority reneged on a deal giving him
to register Internet addresses ending in .web.

The case pits the notion of the Internet as an international resource
subject to the
public trust against the right to stake an online claim to commercial
according to the two sides.

It's also the first lawsuit filed over something that always had been
decided by the
famed "rough consensus and running code" of Internet users themselves.

Image Online Design, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., said it was authorized
in July by
IANA spokesman Bill Manning to register addresses ending in .web at $25

But Ambler said the IANA backed out their deal when a plan was announced
this month to revamp the current system for assigning Internet addresses
by adding
seven new endings, such as .web or .store.

Stuart Levi, attorney for the International Ad Hoc Committee, which
proposed the new
system, said the proposal hadn't even been written -- much less accepted
-- in July
so there were no guidelines yet for how anyone would go about asking for

Image Online Design began assigning .web addresses in July and now has
more than
1,000 customers, Ambler said. But by his own admission, because his
registry is not
a part of the accepted Net order, only between 0.5 and 10 percent of
Internet users
can even see them, much as private streets don't always show up on
official maps.

Ambler feels he staked his claim to those addresses first and hopes
through the suit
to force them to appear throughout the Net.

Levi counters that Ambler gambled and lost.

"He did it outside the structure of the Internet on something that is
labeled as experimental," he said.

Registration is important because the real address of every computer on
the Net is
its Internet Protocol Address, which looks something like 215.323.31.4.
They are
assigned by IANA.

To make them easier to remember, those numbers are paired with names
through the
"domain name" scheme. When a user types "www.nike.com" into their Web
browser, the
computer checks lists maintained by domain registrars to see what address
the name
corresponds to.

Originally the Internet started out with six domains -- .com, .net, .org,
.edu, .mil
and .gov for commercial enterprises, networks, non-profits, schools,
military and
government agencies, respectively.

These were administered by the National Science Foundation, which
contracted with
Network Solutions, Inc. of Reston, Va. to register addresses and maintain
in exchange for the right to collect fees.

With the Internet doubling in size every 18 months, useful names were
harder to find. The solution was to add more domains and the Ad Hoc
Committee --
made up of 11 representatives of Internet, legal and other international
groups -- was formed to come up with a plan.

Its proposal not only creates new domains but also opens up domain
registration to
commercial competition -- but within fairly strict guidelines, including
a lottery
system to chose registrars and rules to ensure they are financially
stable and
technically capable.

"The Ad Hoc Committee is trying to introduce competition in a controlled
manner, so
that the Internet continues to functions smoothly," said Jon Postel,
director of the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and one of the plaintiffs named in
the suit.