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History of Internet Resources Management in Japan

Focusing on Domain Name and IP Address

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Chapter4 Transition of resource management policy for domain names


In the 1990s, the Internet gained in popularity among companies and even households, leaving behind its previous status as a research network. JPNIC responded to the rapidly changing and expanding need for domain names by making revisions to the domain name registration rule (and policy) and creating new domain name spaces.

Coping with expansion of the Internet through policy development

Among the JPNIC working groups, the Domain Name Working Group faced a particularly large number of issues. It is not only that the Internet grew and the number of domain names increased, but also that new needs arose due to widespread increase of domain name registrants and users. The JP domain name that had started with only five organizational types – “AC”, “AD”, “CO”, “GO” and “OR” – was also required to cope with the change of the times.

To incorporate the widest possible range of opinions about JP domain names, a mailing list called “DOMAIN-TALK” was created[76] with an open invitation for anyone to join the discussion. Offline meetings, entitled “DOMAIN OFFLINE MEETING” were also commenced[77].

In 1996, following the release of Windows 95 in the previous year, the Internet expanded rapidly and the number of registered JP domain names exceeded 10,000 for the first time. Before that, there had been a limitation to “third-level uniqueness”, where a string registered at the third level under one organizational type could not be registered under another organizational type. However, as domain name use expanded, it created a rising demand among those wishing to register a domain name of the same label with a different organizational type. Accordingly, the limitation was lifted in November 1996. Domain names starting with numeric characters had also been restricted, but this restriction was removed as well[78].

Deployment of Geographic Type JP and its reconstruction into Prefecture Type JP

From 1988 there were five types of attributes in the JP domain: AC, AD, CO, GO and OR. Organizations registering a domain name were classified into one of these five types. However, when many organizations started to register domain names and the number of registered names increased, there were frequently cases where the application for registration was not accepted because the requested name was the same as an existing domain name. To expand the JP domain name space as a primary objective, JPNIC started an experimental project to introduce “Geographic Type JP Domain Names” on December 1, 1993. Under this project, individuals or organizations residing within a specific region in Japan were able to register a name in the form of “example.<municipality name>.<prefecture name>.JP”[79]. Individuals could not register organizational type JP domain names then, so these new geographic type JP domain names catered to the demands of individuals.

After these geographic type JP domain names came into use, the taxonomy of the organizational types was revised. Elementary and secondary educational institutions were removed from AC.JP, and sole proprietors were removed from CO.JP. They both fell into the category of Geographic Type JP Domain Name.

In May 1995, the rules were changed so that the geographic type space would accommodate Japanese local authorities. Before the change, the local authorities had been grouped under GO.JP. Subsequently, the local authorities launched their Web sites one after another, and most local public organizations used a geographic type JP domain name. So Geographic Type JP became the virtual standard form of URLs prefectures and municipalities.

Along with expansion in the use of geographic type JP domain names, the experimental project terminated on March 31, 1996. Then the system migrated to full-scale operation on April 1 of the same year[80].

By 2002, the number of registered geographic type JP domain names exceeded 4,300, centered on usage by local authorities. However, due to the introduction of General-use JP Domain Names in 2001, registration by individuals shifted from the geographic type name space into the new general-use name space. Furthermore, LG.JP was established in 2002 as a new organizational type JP domain name for local authorities. Accordingly, new registrations of geographic type JP domain names were seldom made. As a result of discussions about restructuring Geographic Type JP Domain Names at JPRS[81], receipt of new registrations terminated as of March 31, 2012[82]. After that, JP domain names indicating regional names were changed into Prefecture Type JP Domain Names. Today, the prefecture type JP domain names respond to new needs in local society[83].

Introduction of ED.JP for elementary and secondary educational institutions

Internet connection of elementary and secondary educational institutions (such as elementary school, junior high school, and high school) spread gradually in the late 1990s through various initiatives, including the “100-school project”, which was started by the then Ministry of International Trade and Industry in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, and the “new 100-school project” that was carried out subsequently. In addition, “Net Day,” a grass-roots activity led by volunteers to improve the Internet environment in schools, also contributed to the expansion of Internet experience in educational institutions.

At first, elementary and secondary educational institutions could register AC.JP domain names in the same way as universities. However, when the experimental project for Geographic Type JP Domain Names started in 1993, the geographic type space was defined to accommodate those institutions instead of AC.JP, due to its highly community-based nature.

As the needs for domain name usage were expanding, demand for an organizational type JP domain space dedicated to elementary and secondary educational institutions increased. So in 1999, JPNIC established ED.JP[84].

Features of the ED.JP deployment included domain name reservations and a preliminary coordination period during which JPNIC accepted requests from institutions for a specific ED.JP domain names string.

One characteristic of elementary and secondary educational institution names is that there are multiple schools with the same name throughout the country. More than 40,000 institutions fell under the category of ED.JP. So it was highly likely that name conflicts would cause confusion if the domain names were registered on a first-come, first-served basis. Moreover, it was expected that some institutions might gain advantage at the expense of others, depending on how the timing of requests aligned with available budgets.

Therefore, JPNIC assigned a unique reserved domain name for each school and accepted a change request if a school desired a different string. If a change request from one institution conflicted with that of another, such conflict was resolved by lottery. Domain name reservations were valid till the end of March 2003, allowing schools to register ED.JP domain names according to their own schedule.

Separation of NE.JP and GR.JP from OR.JP

Around the middle of the 1990s, many commercial Internet service providers entered the market, so discussions started about the need for a new organizational type for network service providers and their users. As a result, in November 1996, NE.JP was established as a new organizational type for network services (which had previously been handled by OR.JP). To avoid confusion among the other organizations using OR.JP, JPNIC – while emphasizing that it was optional – actively encouraged network service providers to migrate into NE.JP. In doing so, JPNIC implemented measures such as priority reservations, in which the NE.JP domain suffix was reserved so that providers who already held OR.JP could secure a domain name equivalent to what they already held. In addition, JPNIC set a transition period during which the providers could use OR.JP and NE.JP names concurrently, and included a measure to waive the commission for transition[85].

Changing domain names imposed an enormous burden on the network service providers. However, for the purpose of providing domain names that were clearly defined (in other words, service addresses that were easy for Internet users to recognize), many domain names were migrated from OR.JP to NE.JP with cooperation from network service providers[86] [87].

Furthermore, responding to the increasing demand for domain names by non-juridical voluntary organizations, the OR.JP domain was redefined to be a space for foreign governmental agencies and corporate organizations that were not included in the other second level domain categories. The eligibility requirement of non-juridical voluntary organizations had been not very precisely defined under OR.JP. So in parallel with the redefinition of OR.JP, a new second level, GR.JP, was established to accommodate those non-judicial voluntary organizations[88].

Establishment of JP domain name registration rule

The rule regarding registration of JP domain names was composed mainly of the documents explaining the procedure and the application format (email application format).

When registering a new domain name or changing registration information, an applicant should refer to the rule documents, compose an email containing the necessary information, and then send the email to the designated window.

In the early days of JP domain name, the number of names was small. So those who requested new domain names to JPNIC, and the JPNIC staff who handled the requests could even know each other. However, over time it became necessary to handle a large number of applications while at the same time ensuring neutrality and fairness throughout the process. This raised the need for a rule that gave due consideration to contractual aspects.

JP Domain Name Registration Working Group (DOM-WG), with the help of a lawyer, took a year to discuss and thoroughly revise the existing documents related to JP domain name registration. As a result, JPNIC published the “Domain Name Registration Rule (draft)” in October 1997[89][90].

Following public comments, the draft was amended and the formal “Domain Name Registration Rule" was released in December 1997[91]. The document came into effect on March 1, 1998.

Although there have been multiple revisions since, the “Registration Rule” document continues to define the role and responsibilities of the registry and registrants (those of JP Registrars were also defined afterward) for JP domain names. Indeed, the revision history for “Registration Rule for Organizational Type and Geographic Type JP Domain Name,” starting at the top of the current document, with the first revision on December 1, 1997[92], reflects the history of JPNIC and JPRS’s endeavors,

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[76] “DOMAIN-TALK and FINANCE-TALK opened,” JPNIC Newsletter No.7, November 1996

[77] Notice: DOMAIN OFFLINE MEETING (August 22, 1997)

[78] “Changes regarding assignment of domain names,” JPNIC Newsletter No.7, November 1996

[79] JPNIC Report 5 “Experimental introduction of geographic type domain names,” UNIX Magazine January 1994 Issue

[80] Assignment of (geographic type) JP domain names (April 1, 1996)

[81] JPRS Geographic Type JP Domain Name Reconstruction Working Group

[82] Notice: Reception of applications for new registration of “Geographic Type JP Domain Name” to be closed

[83] Notice: Revision of rule along with establishment of Prefecture Type JP Domain Name

[84] “Establishment of ED.JP,” JPNIC Newsletter No.12, December 1998

[85] “Migration of network services from OR.JP to NE.JP,” JPNIC Newsletter No.8, 8 March 1997

[86] “Migration of network services from OR domain name to NE domain name,” JPNIC Newsletter No.12, December 1998

[87] List of OR.JP domain names to be migrated to NE.JP domain names (April 1, 1999)

[88] “Establishment of second level JP domain for non-juridical organizations,” JPNIC Newsletter No.10, December 1997

[89] Domain Name Registration Rule (draft) (October 2, 1997)

[90] Rationale for proposing “Domain Name Registration Rule (draft)” (October 2, 1997)

[91] Notice: “Domain Name Registration Rule” published (December 2, 1997)

[92] Registration Rule for Organizational Type and Geographic Type JP Domain Names