CEMT hits a home run with its domain name registration services

CEMT, part of the General Services Administration, took over registration services for
all .gov addresses Oct. 1. Since then, it's had about 60 inquiries about new .gov

The online registration forms appear on the World Wide Web at http://registration.fed.gov.

Obviously, it's not an overwhelming volume of requests that makes this effort a
success. There are only about 500 .gov domain names. But the service offers
something that wasn't available back when contractor Network Solutions Inc. managed
registration through its centralized InterNIC system.

"Once you establish a user account here and we tie it to your domain, you can log
in any time and update your record," CEMT spokesman Gary Borgoyne said.

"Say you changed Internet service providers and wanted to list that in your
records. Previously you had to send a message to InterNIC, then you'd get stuck in the
queue, then wait maybe three weeks," he said.

Under the old system, Borgoyne said, he had to send several requests before some of his
records were updated. Now, CEMT gives users a unique identifier to log into the .gov
records database.

"We've empowered the owners at the lowest level to make their own changes,"
he said. An interface lets users search lists of registered government servers with names,
addresses and server manager contacts.

Right now, the CEMT server is hosted on Lotus Development Corp.'s Domino platform. As
it grows, Borgoyne said, it may go to a different platform with an Oracle Corp. database.

The office controls all data associated with .gov domain name records and
generates what's known as a zone file each evening. This is the main reference list of .gov
domain names and their associated IP addresses.

For now, the zone file is turned over to InterNIC, which publishes it to the Internet's
nine regional domain name servers--the sources that all other domain name servers look to
as they try to resolve Internet addresses.

Sometime next year, CEMT itself will start distributing the zone files to those
servers, taking InterNIC out of the loop.

About half the requests received by the center come from state and local governments.

"A lot of people perceive the .gov domain as including all of government,
but it does not," Borgoyne said.

Staff members end up explaining the Internet Engineering Task Force's Request for
Comments 2146 document to many people who request .gov names.

RFC 2146, prepared with the help of the Federal Networking Council, sets out
requirements that restrict the domain to federal offices.

You can view the document on the CEMT site or receive an e-mail copy by sending a
message to registration@fed.gov.

Type in the message body, "Get RFC 2146."

The center encourages state and local governments to use the .us domain. Federal
offices can use that, too. CEMT has reserved the address .fed.us, which federal
groups also can use.

"If you're not a top-level agency but you produce a product or service for the
government, this address could give you a federal presence," Borgoyne said.

A computers.fed.org address has been set up to channel surplus federal computer
equipment to schools, for example. CEMT offers dual registration for any office that wants
to reserve a name under both .gov and .fed.us domains.

This could be the start of a migration by federal groups toward the country domain
system that's being adopted by much of the rest of the world. The center also helps with
registration for other services, such as X.500 directory information base systems and
X.400 private management domain systems for message handling.

Shawn P. McCarthy is a computer journalist, webmaster and Internet programmer for GCN's
parent, Cahners Publishing Co. E-mail him at smccarthy@cahners.com.

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