DNS Second-Level and Lower Domains, Delegation of Registration Authority and Public Registration
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The IANA is in charge of deciding what top-level domains (TLDs) exist in the Internet name space, and as such, they are ultimately responsible for all names in the Internet. The entire point of the authority hierarchy, however, is that IANA not be responsible for the whole name space. So, while IANA maintains control over certain TLDs, such as .INT and .ARPA, control for managing the others is delegated to secondary authorities for each TLD.
Just as IANA had the choice of how to delegate authority to the subdomains of the root domain, the organization in charge of each TLD gets to make the same decision about how second-level domains are to be created under the TLD. In many of the TLDs, especially the generic ones, second-level domains are assigned directly to individuals or organizations.
For example, a company named XYZ Industries might want to get the domain xyzindustries.com. In other TLDs, second-level domains are set up in a particular structure, like the state codes used in the .US domain. There, you need to go down more levels, but eventually you once again get to the point where companies and people register their own domains; in the .US domain, XYZ Industries might want to register xyz.phoenix.az.us, for example, if they were headquartered in Phoenix.
This transition point between the authorities granted responsibility for parts of the name space and the regular people and groups who want to get names within it is important. A process of public registration had to be established to allow such name assignment to occur in a consistent and manageable way. This was not that difficult to accomplish back when the original generic TLDs and country code TLDs were first created. The Internet was quite small and it made sense to just have the authority in charge of each TLD perform registrations within that TLD. This ensured that there was no duplication of names within a TLD with a minimum of fuss.
For the very important generic TLDs such as .COM, .NET and .ORG, the authority in charge of registration was the Internet Network Information Center (the InterNIC). The InterNIC was set up as a service administered by the United States government, who later granted the contract to manage it to Network Solutions Inc. (NSI). NSI was eventually purchased by Verisign, then later spun it off as a separate venture. (Things change quickly in the networking world!)
NSI single-handedly performed all registrations within the .COM, .NET and .ORG TLDs for many years. The popularity of the original generic TLDs, however, led to an explosion in demand for name registration in the 1990s in these domains. Having a single company in charge of registration led to this becoming another bottleneck in the Internet's domain name system. There were also many folks who didn't like the lack of accountability and competition that came with having a single monopoly in charge of registration; the InterNIC could set its own price and originally charged $35 per year per domain name, then later $50 per year.
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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