What is InterNIC?

The Network Information Centre (NIC) or InterNIC was the organisation mainly responsible for the Domain Name System (DNS) assignments and X.500 directory services from 1993 to 1998. It was founded in 1972 by Elizabeth Feinler, and was run by the Stanford Research Institute (known today as SRI International) from its inception till 1991. Network Solutions handled its operations from 1991 until September 1998. Then the responsibility was taken up by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which has managed the aorganisation till date.

In the past, access to the InterNIC was via the domain name internec.net, and the FTP, World Wide Web and email services were coordinated at different times by SRI, Network Solutions and AT&T. The InterNIC also managed the IP address space, as well as ran the IP address for North America before the establishment of ARIN. InterNIC is a registered service mark of the United States Department of Commerce. The use of InterNIC is licensed to ICANN.

Stanford Research Institute (SRI)

The first central authority to manage the running of the network was the Network Information Centre (NIC). The NIC operated out of the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International). In 1972, Elizabeth J. Feinler or Jake, assumed the role of chief investigator of the project.

It was the job of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to assign the numbers, while they were published to the rest of the network by the NIC. The NIC supplied reference services to users, managed and published a people directory, a resource handbook and the handbook of protocols. Feinler worked with members of the Network Working Group such as Jon Postel and Steve Crocker to develop RFCs for the official set of notes for ARPANET and subsequently the internet. The NIC offered the first links to online files using the NLS journal system created at the Augmentation Research Centre in SRI.

Hosts on the ARPANET were given names to be used instead of numeric addresses. New host owners sent emails to hostmster@sri-NIC.ARPA to obtain an address. A file called Hosts.txt was circulated by the NIC and installed manually for individual hosts on the network to deliver a charting system between names and their applicable network addresses. As the network developed, this method became progressively cumbersome. The Domain Name System was eventually formed as a technical solution to the situation.

The DDN-NIC (Defense Data Network Network Information Centre) at SRI managed all registration responsibilities, including the top-level domains; .gov, .com, .mil, .org, .net, and .us. They also assigned internet numbers and delivered root nameserver administration.

Network solutions

In 1990, the Internet Activities Board made a move to change the centralized NIC/IANA procedure. The Defense Information Systems Agency gave the function of maintaining the DDN-NIC, which was previously run by SRI, to Government Systems, Inc. The latter subcontracted the project to Network Solutions, a then small private-sector company.

In 1991, the NIC services was transferred from DESYSTEM-20 machine at Stanford Research institute to Sun Microsystems. By the 1990S, the internet growth expanded to and in the non-defence sectors. In 1992, the National Science Foundation (NSF) began a competitive bidding process, and in 1993, NSF developed the Internet Network Information Centre, or InterNIC, to grow and coordinate the database service as well as the directory for the NSFNET. The NSF then gave the contract to manage the InterNIC to three organisations:

  • Network Solutions provided registration services
  • AT&T executed the directory and database services
  • General Atomic performed information services

However, in 1994. General Atomic was let go from the contract after it was discovered that their services flouted the rules of the contract. The InterNIC functions previously handled by General Atomic were handed over to AT&T.

In early 1996, Network Solutions turned downed domain names written in English language words on an “exclusive list” via an automatic filter. Applicants with rejected domain name applications were sent an email explaining why their applications were not accepted. Most of the words were deemed inappropriate, for example while domain names such as “shit.com” were registered and active, other like “shitakemushrooms.com were rejected.

Network Solutions later began to permit domain names containing certain “taboo” names on a case by case basis, after they had been reviewed for obscene content.

Transfer to ICANN and ARIN

The InterNIC worked on projects such as the Internet IP number assignment, reverse DNS zone and ASN assignment management until 1997, when the America Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) was formed. These responsibilities were transferred to ARIN by the National Science Foundation.

In 1998, the InterNIC Directory and Database projects performed by AT&T were ceased when their cooperative contract with NSF expired.

Both IANA and InterNIC projects were later reorganised under the management of ICANN, a not-for-profit corporation working under contract of the United States Department of Commerce. The responsibility of running the Domain Name System was privatized and opened to competition while the overall management of name allocations would be given on contractual basis.

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