Firms shun domain name body

Decisions on domain names will be left to hackers and suppliers as user companies miss nomination date

The battle is on for control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international body that manages the global Internet domain name system (DNS).

Internet users will vote in October to choose the nine elected members of the 19-strong ICANN board.

But while IT suppliers and telecoms firms are well represented on the official list of nominees, corporate IT users are not. Many businesses see ICANN as a fringe body, so it has been left to individual Web activists - self-styled "netizens" - to make the user voice heard.

ICANN closed registration for the election last month with just 158,000 Internet users entitled to vote.

The outgoing board has nominated a list of candidates - a mixture of academics and executives from IT supply companies, Internet service and telecoms providers. Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom and Fujitsu are among the big guns represented.

Ranged against these are a growing band of rank-and-file Web users. These "member nominees" need the support of 2% of registered users to get on the ballot paper.

As Computer Weekly went to press there were 80 candidates nominated for the European Union region alone.

With 10 days to go, most were backed by just a handful of users, but Andy Mueller-Maguhn of Germany-based "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC) stood way ahead of the rest with 973 nominations - he needed 760 to appear on the ballot paper.

The CCC describes itself as "a voice for all the hackers in the world".

Only two UK users have been nominated so far. They are 70-year-old IT consultant Alan Dobson and unemployed helpdesk worker Paul Grimshaw. There are no UK-based candidates on the official list, but BT sits on the unelected side of the ICANN board.

Grimshaw told Computer Weekly, "ICANN is supposed to be the most important organisation for the Internet, yet as we speak the World Intellectual Property Organisation is ignoring ICANN and making its own rules."

He added, "Then there is domain-name dispute resolution procedure. At the moment, a user has practically no time whatsoever to get to funds in order to fight a court case if elected. I would certainly vote for fairer proceedings and more rights for the individual user."

ICANN oversees the domain name dispute resolution procedure and will also have the final say in the creation of new top-level domains such as .eu, .sex or .bank.

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