U.S. Tells Network Solutions to Share Dot-Com Database

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Imagine how valuable it would be to own the principal directory of Internet domain names. Network Solutions, the Herndon, Va., company that's had the exclusive right to sign up dot-com names for the last five years, is worth more than $2 billion in today's stock market. But who really owns the "whois" directory?

Since March, Network Solutions has been limiting access to the full database of name registrations. But those days may be numbered. Last week the U.S. Commerce Department sent Network Solutions a letter, released yesterday, saying the directory is public property. "We strongly object to NSI's restrictive policy." Citing the 1993 agreement with the government that effectively created the Network Solutions monopoly on dot-com, dot-net and dot-org domain names, the Commerce Department letter continued, "nothing in the cooperative agreement, nor in existing law gives, NSI the right to restrict access to this information." MORE >>