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CFIT's board of directors are made up of Momentous' employees or close associates. Its head is Momentous' lawyer, others are heads of its various companies.

We estimate that its lobbying effort so far has cost around $200,000, so why is it worth so much to Momentous to put ICANN under pressure - and why does it want to appear to be pushing an industry consensus, rather than the interests of just one company?

The answer lies in the new dotcom contract, announced last month between ICANN and VeriSign. The contract has been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism, not least because it gives VeriSign control of all dotcoms domain names forever, plus allows the company to raise prices by seven per cent a year.

But what Momentous really doesn't like is the fact that VeriSign will be given control of expiring domain names i.e. those domains registered once but which, for whatever reason, the original registrants have decided not to pay to re-register once they expire.

dot com redux

With tens of millions of domains registered there are very few usable dotcoms left, making the market in renewed domains the internet's exploding market. And Momentous has invested millions in grabbing as much of it as possible.

Currently there is a mad scramble for domains whenever they expire. Dozens of companies make literally thousands of requests every second on VeriSign's computers the moment that a domain is released. It's an electronic free-for-all where firepower wins. The more requests you send, the greater your chances of success.

This has resulted in some companies spending huge sums to sway the process in their favour. One of Momentous' tactics has been to register dozens of domain name registrars (the only companies allowed to buy domains direct from VeriSign), in order to boost their chances.

But if the current contract goes ahead, VeriSign will have automatic ownership of all expiring domains and companies will have to work within VeriSign's own framework to get hold of domains.

To a certain degree, Momentous is using the irritation from other internet consitutencies within ICANN over the contract to push home its point. But that fact is unlikely to bother those who agree with the wider contract criticisms.

Who it will bother is ICANN, Verisign and - if the freedom of information request turns up any evidence of unfair interference - the US government itself. ®

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