Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Social Work


This paper is a case study of the campaign to create a new internet names authority to handle the assignment of internet domain names. Almost everyone knows by now that the Internet was originally a defense research project, which morphed into a research network for scientists and then into a tool of higher education and eventually into the commercial and general household utility we know today. In terms familiar to nonprofit research community what began in the state sector, expanded into the third sector and then into the market and household sectors and the consumer economy. There is a second and more recent story of the development of the internet, however, which is equally relevant to third sector theory: It is an almost perfect case of a cooperative and workable third-sector solution implemented on a voluntary basis by the members of the Internet Society which was eventually replaced by a government-imposed but unstable market solution. Faced with the need to expand beyond the original limits of the .com domain, the search for new solutions led to a subsequent round of market failures followed by government failure and eventually a return to a non-profit solution, which is currently being implemented (and proved durable for at least the next two decades). This case study explores the familiar dynamics of market failure, government failure and a number of other related issues raised by the case.

Source Citation

Presented at the Annual Meeting, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. Washington DC. October, 1999.



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