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Registrar Accreditation: History of the Shared Registry System

In October of 1998, the United States Department of Commerce ("DoC") and Network Solutions, Inc. ("NSI") amended their cooperative agreement, under which NSI had been the sole registrar and registry administrator for the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains. This Amendment 11 required the establishment of a Shared Registration System in which an unlimited number of registrars would compete for domain name registration business utilizing one shared registry (for which NSI would continue to act as registry administrator). Amendment 12 modified the timeline established in Amendment 11 while Amendment 13 set a registry fee of $9 per domain name per year, payable as $18 for new registrations, and approving the Registrar License and Agreement, (the initial contract that applied between NSI the registry and competitive registrars).

In November of 1998, the DoC identified ICANN, a newly-formed, private, non-profit corporation as the entity that would oversee the transition to competition under the SRS. Part of ICANN's responsibilities included establishing and implementing a procedure for registrar accreditation that would ensure a transition to a competitive domain name registration system providing continued Internet stability and domain-name durability (See also the US Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications & Information Administration, Information on Management of Internet Names and Addresses and the US Department of Commerce's Paper on the Management of Internet Names and Addresses (the "White Paper").

On March 4, 1999, the ICANN Board of Directors adopted a Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy, which grew out of the publicly posted Draft Guidelines for Registrar Accreditation and the comments received on the Draft Guidelines. The ICANN Board directed ICANN's Interim President and CEO to implement a program for registrar accreditation for the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains consistent with the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy.

Between March 11 and April 8, 1999, ICANN accepted applications from entities seeking accreditation to participate as one of the five domain name registrars in the SRS Testbed Program described in Amendment 11 to the DoC's cooperative agreement with NSI. Although originally scheduled to end on June 26, 1999, the Testbed Program was extended several times until its actual end date of November 30, 1999.

Since April 8, 1999, ICANN has continued to accept applications for registrar accreditation for the post-testbed period of the SRS, and has accredited over 160 businesses, in addition to the original five Testbed Program participants. For a list of all ICANN-accredited registrars, please visit

On 17 May 2001, ICANN adopted a new version of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, which was in effect for all accredited registrars until 21 May 2009.

On 21 May 2009, the ICANN Board unanimously approved a set of 17 amendments to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). The newly revised RAA ("2009 RAA") was the result of an extensive consultation process that engaged all interested constituencies of the Internet community including governments, individual Internet users, and gTLD registrars. The 2009 RAA includes: enhanced enforcement tools to assure full compliance with the ICANN contract and policies, expanded requirements for reseller agreements, additional audit and data escrow requirements, more explicit requirements for providing contact information, and new notice requirements and termination provisions. Over a period of time all registrars will eventually be covered by the latest version of the RAA.

Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."