The "White Paper" Edit
On June 5, 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) issued a statement of policy concerning the Domain Name System. Called the "White Paper," the Management of Internet Names and Addresses statement stated that because the Internet was rapidly becoming an international medium for commerce, education, and communication, the traditional means of managing its technical functions needed to evolve as well. The White Paper indicated that the U.S. government was committed to a transition that would allow the private sector to take leadership for the management of the domain name system. The White Paper also signaled DOC’s intention to ramp down the government's Cooperative Agreement with Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), with the objective of introducing competition into the domain name space while maintaining stability and ensuring an orderly transition.
In deciding upon an entity with which to enter such an agreement, the U.S. government would assess whether the new system ensured stability, competition, private and bottom-up coordination, and fair representation of the Internet community as a whole. The White Paper endorsed a process whereby the divergent interests of the Internet community would come together and decide how Internet names and addresses would be managed and administered.
The White Paper defined four guiding principles for the privatization effort:
- Stability: The U.S. government should end its role in the domain name system in a manner that ensures the stability of the Internet. During the transition, the stability of the Internet should be the first priority and a comprehensive security strategy should be developed. To further enhance the stability of the Internet, the White Paper identified the need to formalize the traditionally informal relationships among the parties involved in running the domain name system. The White Paper pointed out that many commercial interests, staking their future on the successful growth of the Internet, were calling for a more formal and robust management structure.
- Competition: Where possible, market mechanisms that support competition and consumer choice should drive the management of the Internet because they will lower costs, promote innovation, encourage diversity, and enhance user choice and satisfaction.
- Representation: The development of sound, fair, and widely accepted policies for the management of the domain name system will depend on input from the broad and growing community of Internet users. Management structures should reflect the functional and geographic diversity of the Internet and its users.
- Private, bottom-up coordination: Where coordinated management is needed, responsible private-sector action is preferable to government control. The private process should, as far as possible, reflect the bottom-up governance that has characterized development of the Internet to date.
The new corporation would have the authority to set policy for and direct the allocation of the Internet Protocol numbers that underlie each domain name. It would oversee the operation of an authoritative root server system, set the policy for determining how new top-level domains are added to the root system, and coordinate the assignment of the Internet technical parameters as needed to maintain universal connectivity on the Internet.
The policy statement called for the transition to begin as soon as possible, with the goal of having the new corporation carry out operational responsibilities by October 1998. It was expected that the transition would be complete before the year 2000, with September 30, 2000, being considered an outside date.
Internet constituencies from around the world held a series of meetings during the summer of 1998 to discuss how the New Corporation might be constituted and structured.
Subsequent Developments Edit
On October 2, 1998, the Department of Commerce accepted a proposal for an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). On November 25, 1998, the DOC and ICANN agreed to jointly design, develop, and test the mechanisms, methods, and procedures necessary to transition management responsibility for DNS functions to a private sector, not-for-profit entity.