Domain mastery

The General Services Administration is wise to take over civilian governmental Internet
.gov domain name registration after Oct. 1. Notwithstanding the trend toward outsourcing
and using commercial services, the federal government needs to control its own domain, at
least for now.


In fact, GSA should extend the service to governments at all levels--federal, state,
county and municipal.


As GCN columnist and longtime Internet expert Shawn McCarthy has pointed out, the
familiar system of domain registration that applies to World Wide Web site address
registrants everywhere is unraveling [GCN, Sept. 15, Page 69].


As is common in the world of the Internet, no one can agree on anything.


At issue is the expiration of Network Solutions Inc.'s five-year National Science
Foundation contract to handle domain name registration.


Who should take over for Network Solutions' InterNIC service? Several proposals are
floating around, including a multicompany competition for the registrar business.


The short list of common generic top-level domains--known online as gTLDs--is .com,
.mil, .gov, .net, .org and .edu. Another debate rages over whether the list should be
extended. And if so, to whom?


From there, the debate branches into whether new gTLDs would accurately reflect the
registrants using them, and whether individuals, groups or companies should be allowed to
use the same specific domain on two or more gTLDs.


As usual, the real question is: Who will control the Internet--and by what enforcement
mechanisms?


Given this uncertainty, as well as the popularity of .gov sites as targets for spoofing
and hacking, it makes sense for the government to maintain its own registration, just as
the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency maintains registration for .mil
addresses.


As it becomes the government's registrar, GSA must remain vigilant to goings-on in the
other domains to avoid fiascoes such as the posting of the pornographic site that used the
nasa.com address.


When the various Internet committees reach a consensus, perhaps the government can
again contract out the registration service.


In the meantime, it should hang on to the family jewels.


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