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The Partridge Family does domains

August 26, 1998
Web posted at: 1:20 PM EDT

by Sandra Gittlen, Online reporter, Network World Fusion


(IDG) -- For the past two months, Ira Magaziner, the Clinton administration's top Internet advisor, has been touring the globe, trying to gain consensus for his IP address and domain-name overhaul plan. With him at each stop has been Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI), the Internet Society (ISOC) and members of global Internet organizations.

While the stops have been hacked together on a moment's notice, representatives from these organizations seem to have no problem jetting off to the global destinations, which have included Geneva, Singapore and Buenos Aires.

What set out to be a simple set of four meetings has turned into a never-ending global tour. But not just any tour. It bears a strange resemblance to a Partridge Family reunion for the '90s, complete with all the original characters:

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Shirley Partridge

In 1998, she's played by Boston University Professor Tamar Frankel. And boy does she have her hands full. As mediator for each stop's series of meetings, Frankel has the thankless job of trying to keep all her band members from bickering and yet crank out new tunes or policies. Word from the band's stop in Geneva had Frankel losing her impartiality and a grip on her band. Band members criticized her for getting to close to the band's promoter, Magaziner, and not keeping an open mind.

Keith Partridge

Playing the hot-to-trot boy toy of the Partridge clan is NSI, the current administrator of domain names such as .com, .net and .edu. The company is a rising star; its stock price has soared from good word that it will grow even in the wake of competition from new domain name registrars. Like Keith, NSI keeps singing its heart out about all the good that is going to come from this competition and how it wholeheartedly supports the government's plan. But deep down inside, the company just can't wait to break from the government's grip.

Laurie and Danny Partridge

The Internet Society and its various offshoots, such as the almost-defunct Council of Registrars, play an amalgam of Laurie and Danny. Trying to gain the spotlight from domain darling NSI is a pretty tough job. In order to cash in on the band's success, Laurie and Danny can't look upset, but they have to make sure that their interests are recognized and their concerns addressed. They also have to keep their promise to ISPs and organizations that ponied up significant dollars for a chance to hand out domain names. Besides, Keith has the corner of the market on screaming fans.

Reuben Kincaid

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority head Jon Postel, plays a more hip, more mod version of Mr. Kincaid. Like the erstwhile manager of the famous family, Postel seems to be waiting in the wings, watching as the others battle back and forth. However, appearances can be deceiving. Instead, Mr. Postel is behind the scenes, trying to keep a hold on his stake in the Internet. In Geneva, Postel passed out copies of his plan for the new nonprofit, a move that was met with dismay by some of the band members. Frankel, like Mrs. Partridge would, tried to run interference, but some band members were already perturbed.

Then there's Ira Magaziner, who created the band. While Magaziner doesn't have a single role, he plays the gamut of industry executives and concert promoters that the band comes across. On the one hand, he wants all the band members to have a hand in the future of Internet addressing, but on the other, he's pretty clear on what he wants to come out of this effort. He's also sure that he wants Internet addressing to be off the government's plate, but he still wants to make sure that some government oversight occurs.

The tour is due to wind up back in the U.S. or Canada next month. Whether the band members decide to stay on board the government plan or hand up their instruments remains to be seen. Some members, such as ISOC and CORE, may have suffered severe exhaustion on the trip and heard one too many rounds of "C'mon, get happy!"

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