Breaking the Virtual Real Estate Monopoly

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The company that sold the Web now has some competition. Since 1993, Network Solutions has been the only company in the world that could register web domains ending in .com, .net, and .org, and it charged its customers handsomely for them. But starting April 26 it will have five new competitors. They stand to make millions, but more importantly, the change means that for the first time ever, ordinary web users will have a shot at paying a fair price for their own corner of cyberspace.

The companies that have been selected are both big and small, nonprofit and for-profit:, the Internet Council of Registrars, France Telecom, Australia's Melbourne IT, and the mega-giant Internet service provider America Online. They'll be registering domains on a 60-day trial basis, after which time, if all goes well, the arrangement will become permanent. The choices were made on the basis of technical competence, business savvy and geographical distribution by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international nonprofit group in charge of making sure the Internet's infrastructure is managed in a fair and sensible fashion. MORE>>