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|22 August, 1999 - The Domain Name System (DNS) is in total disarray right now. The United States Congress is fussing over it, the courts are the staging area for fights over by people like Paul Garrin of Name.Space who believe that .net, .com. and .org are not enough, and claim that we also need .sex, .fun, .retail, et alia. Paul's taking votes on all sorts of new dots. Really.
"Cybersquatters," people who buy domain names either to auction them off to the highest bidder or --- like George W. Bush, Jr., the Presidential candidate --- as pre-emptive strikes on people who might be tempted to make fun of them (Oh my!), take names out of circulation with no intention whatsoever of using them for an actual Web site. And those of us with actual uses for domain names go wanting.
Meanwhile, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) dithers it's time away trying to determine how to elect real officers instead of all the "Interims" it has now, goes begging corporations for spare change so it doesn't completely go under, and watches the cars pile up.
So I was not *entirely* surprised when I got an e-mail from Loyal Reader Matt Stowell in San Francisco about the problem he's having getting a domain name for the new project he wants to start. Let me share it with you as an example of the multi-car pile-up that's happening on the Information Superhighway right now.
dubya-dubya-dubya biteme dot org
What was that URL, Earl?
So...I decided to go look at domain names, and I found some weirdness.
|Yeah, Matt, I do.
First off, if it looks like a scam, walks like a scam, and smells like a scam, it probably is a scam. Save your fifty bucks.
Right now there are about half a dozen organizations, including America Online (AOL) who have been authorized by ICANN to register Top Level Domain names (TLDs.) Some of them are even offering lower prices than Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) I've heard that we can expect a price war among these registrars, *not* a situation where you pay extra money on top of NSI's standard fees.
And let's not consider it a coincidence that Congressman, and House Commerce Committee chairman, Thomas Bliley of Virginia ("Ehm.... Isn't that the same state where AOL is headquartered?") is all over both NSI and ICANN. Frankly, if both organizations dried up and blew away AOL would be MORE THAN HAPPY to pick up the pieces.
But where does that leave Jean and Joe Schmoe right now? In the lurch. Remember that company in Australia that set up the Web site with a name nearly identical to NSI's but under a different dot? Lots of people sent them money to register domain names, thinking they had reached Network Solutions. Oops! Expect a lot more scams along these lines.
Meanwhile, it sounds like you're dealing with a couple squatters on the name you want. And right now there isn't a thing to be done about it.
Will ICANN be part of the solution to this mess? Doubtful.
But that goes with being part of the new frontier. Until some new Marshal comes to the territory and starts wounding a few of the outlaws and running the squatters off the range, probably in the service of "the railroad(ers)" or some other large outfit, you and I are left to fend for ourselves.
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