It is now nearly a year since I wrote about the goings-on at the organisation that has been entrusted with running the Internet's domain name system, Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). I noted then that it was trying to neuter the power of the at-large directors - those appointed directly by the Internet community.
Since then, the situation has got worse. Now Icann is attempting to do away with these directors altogether, replacing them with more pliable government functionaries. Meanwhile, it has been doing its utmost to stop a current at-large director, Karl Auerbach, from gaining access to Icann's corporate records - a course of action recently forbidden by a US court.
The latter story can be found at the excellent IcannWatch, which has acquired a smart new format thanks to the content management system software PHP-Nuke, which is freely available under the GNU general public licence.
At first sight, another recent Icann move looks less contentious. As part of a revised deal among Icann, VeriSign, and the US Department of Commerce that was signed in May 2001, VeriSign agreed to hand over the running of the .org domain so that it could keep its registrar business NSI. Icann has now suggested that the Internet Society, in conjunction with Afilias - which is running the new .info domain - should take over.
Although the Internet Society is certainly a well-respected body, it is by no means the kind of new blood that Icann so desperately needs. If anything, it represents a further entrenchment of precisely those elements that many object to in Icann.
Against this background of maladroit moves, it is easy to overlook what may well be turning into Icann's first success story.
Back in November 2000, Icann created several new top-level domains top-level domains, of which the most interesting was .aero/, designed for the aviation world. This was the first time that a new domain had been set up specifically for an industry, with all that this implies for tighter regulation of name allocation.
The task of running the new domain was granted to Sita, a major IT player in the aviation world. There is a brief introduction to the .aero domain, as well as a FAQ. Before applying for a .aero domain, it is necessary to obtain an aviation community membership ID. The domain itself is bought through what are termed .aero shops - authorised registrars for the domain. There is more on how .aero works how .aero works, and a list of reserved domains.
Plugging in some obvious names to the Whois page shows that a number of major aviation companies have already signed up for the new domain. It will therefore be interesting to see how exactly they use these new names alongside the usual .coms. Assuming that they prove to have a useful role, .aero will provide an important trial for the roll-out of such specialised domains to other business sectors. It might even turn out to be one of the few things Icann has got right.