Users, vendors form lobbying groups to shape Net's future

By Shawn P. McCarthy

New players and some familiar old ones are busily lobbying government policy-makers and the public to direct the Internet's evolution in specific ways. Their efforts could change the way you use the Net in years to come.

•, at www., focuses on policy issues. It includes leading Internet corporations that already have 500-pound-gorilla status:, America Online Inc., DoubleClick Inc.,, Excite@Home, Inktomi Corp., Lycos Inc., and Yahoo Inc. That's most of the Net top 10; Microsoft Corp. is conspicuously absent.

Big issues: Open, competitive standards and user confidence in online transactions.

Rivals: Companies with proprietary standards for transactions or services.

• IAdvance Coalition, at, is another policy lobbying group. Backed by the nation's regional telephone companies, it was founded by Bell Atlantic Corp., Gateway Inc.,, NetNoir Inc., SBC Communications Inc., the Alliance for Public Technology, the American Council on Education and other associations. It is co-chaired by President Clinton's former press secretary, Mike McCurry.

Big issues: Promoting consumer choice and high-speed technologies while equalizing data regulation of telephone and cable providers.

Rivals: Cable companies and AT&T Corp.

• OpenNET Coalition, at www., is led by America Online. MCI WorldCom Inc., Sprint Corp. and several Internet providers are among its members.

Big issue: Promoting open cable access so long as the Federal Communications Commission wants telephone companies to keep their broadband networks open to competitors.

Rivals: Cable companies and AT&T.

• The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, at, focuses on technology issues, but its role as the Commerce Department's designated nonprofit overseer of IP address space allocation is complex. It dabbles in protocols and influences root server and Domain Name System management. Esther Dyson is its interim chairwoman.

Big issue: Establishing its authority and funding as coordinator of DNS, formerly administered by the government.

Rivals: Network Solutions Inc., long-time DNS manager for .com, .org and .net names. Several other vendors and ad hoc organizations claim to have better methods than ICANN.

• The World Wide Web Consortium, at, has a technical focus with policy overtones. Founded by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, W3's reach is limited to the Web, the protocols that drive it and ideas that could improve it.

Big issues: A new version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, development of Extensible Markup Language tag sets for different industries, open-source server software, style sheets and graphics protocols.

Rivals: Vertical-market XML schema innovators hat want to develop their own tag sets.

• The Internet Engineering Task Force, at, has a technical focus set by its working groups of protocol architects, network designers and vendors.

IETF operates much closer to the foundation of the Net than the World Wide Web Consortium.

Big issues: Audio and video protocols, secure transactions, content management and new versions of dozens of Net protocols.

Rivals: Few, because most interested parties can argue their causes fairly in the working groups.

A dozen other organizations might appear on this list, but these are the groups I'm watching because of their potential to nudge the Internet into a high-bandwidth multimedia powerhouse.

Shawn P. McCarthy designs products for a Web search engine provider. E-mail him at

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