October 27, 2003 10:05 AM PST

Internet group mulls a meaty meeting

The group that oversees Internet domain names and addresses said Monday that its meeting this week in Tunisia will focus on IPv6, VeriSign's "wild card" redirection service, and intellectual property rights in domain names.

Representatives of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) predicted in a conference call that the dozens of working groups will produce more "substantive" discussions than those formed during previous meetings, which often were devoted to internal procedures.

"For the first time in this meeting we're having a chance to deal with really substantive issues," ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf, who also is a vice president at MCI, told reporters. "This is a big turning point for me personally and, I think, for the organization."

The week of technology and policy events in Carthage, Tunisia--which will be capped by a public forum on Thursday and a board meeting (also open to the public) on Friday--comes at a time when interest in the arcana of Internet governance has sharply increased. ICANN has been sparring with VeriSign over the company's controversial Site Finder service, which snared traffic to nonexistent Internet sites and forwarded it to VeriSign's own servers. The service is now at least temporarily on hold. A discussion of wild card services was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Meeting attendees won't be at a loss for local entertainment. Events include an "October musical" show at Carthage's Acropolium, a ceremony on Tuesday sponsored by the Tunisian government with entertainment from the "national band of popular arts," and a Thursday evening event "animated by a female band of traditional music and accompanied by a traditional fashion parade."

Also on the agenda, with a workshop on Wednesday, is Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which vastly expands the pool of unique numbers available for connecting PCs and other devices. Last week, a group of technology companies including 3Com, Cisco Systems, AT&T and BellSouth said they were embracing IPv6, and the U.S. Defense Department plans to completely switch over by 2008.

Cerf said that by 2006 to 2007, "there will be a need to have a fully functional IPv6," noting that the current version of TCP/IP dates back to 1978, when the Internet was a much smaller network. Another topic that ICANN's board will discuss this week is how to shield the domain name system--both the root servers and the servers for top-level domains such as .com, .uk, and .jp--from malicious attacks, Cerf said.

The growing number of denial-of-service and other attacks, coupled with VeriSign's unannounced decision to implement Site Finder, has "heightened an appreciation of what is stability for the Internet, what is the operation of the core function, and how should it be done," ICANN President Paul Twomey said.

Twomey said another item that will be discussed is a report from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) involving intellectual property rights when country names such as Mexico or Canada are used in domain names. WIPO's General Assembly last year decided that "protection should be extended to the long and short names of countries."

A March 2003 report from WIPO says the current domain name dispute procedures should be amended to preclude ownership when "the domain name is of a nature that is likely to mislead users into believing that there is an association between the domain name holder and the constitutional authorities of the country in question."

 

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