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IT Confidential

If the Internet is the modern-day equivalent of the Wild West, then the snake-oil salesmen of the Web are the domain-name registrar. The Internet Corporation For Assigned Names And Numbers, the organization that oversees the creation of domain names, has been under fire for acting in secret and abusing its power since the Commerce Department created it in 1998. And small businesses complain that domain-name registrars play fast and loose with their intellectual property. Last week, an ugly spat erupted between VeriSign, the dominant domain-name company, and startup Go Daddy. In a statement on its Web site (including documentation), Go Daddy claims VeriSign sent its customers false notification of domain expirations. "The purpose behind these notices is to get the unsuspecting customer to transfer to and renew their name(s) with VeriSign Inc. at significantly higher prices," Go Daddy said. A VeriSign spokesman wouldn't comment on the accusations but said the domain-name business is extremely competitive. "There are over 90 domain-name registrars," he says. VeriSign sends out a lot of marketing material, he says, and "every piece of marketing that VeriSign sends bears VeriSign's name."

DoubleClick, the online ad agency, last week agreed to settle federal and state class-action lawsuits brought against it for questionable use of online consumer data. DoubleClick agreed to a list of privacy practices, such as notification and opt-in approval for combining individual clickstream data with other personally identifiable data. It also agreed to pay $1.8 million in legal fees. The company raised the hackles of privacy advocates in 1999 when it said it would combine consumer data and online data. "The steps we're taking represent by far the most aggressive leadership position regarding privacy within our industry," Jules Polonetsky, DoubleClick's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

The man's got chutzpah. Hasso Plattner, co-chairman and CEO of German software maker SAP, says he tried to talk Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer into attending the JavaOne developers conference in San Francisco last week. A major (if unstated) theme of the show was the rivalry between Java, Sun Microsystems' Web programming language, and Microsoft's .Net framework for building and deploying Web applications. Nix on the Microsofties, but Plattner showed up to give the keynote speech. "We can't build the coming generation of systems on multiple frameworks. It will not work," he told the crowd. The software business "is so big that no company can build totally alone anymore."

After 12 years at Prudential Financial, most recently as VP of IS for the Newark, N.J., financial-services firm, Greg Morrison has signed on as VP and CIO of Cox Enterprises. Morrison arrives in Atlanta to oversee the technology initiatives of the $7.82 billion media conglomerate and says he's not looking to overhaul IT. "I plan to build on the success of the company by enabling future growth by aligning and leveraging IT along business goals and trying to streamline internal businesses," he says. "My company's good at what it does, and executes it well, and that's what drew me there."

Could Walter Hewlett's last-ditch lawsuit to stop the HP-Compaq merger portend extended legal wrangling between the rivals? It may be several weeks until IVS Associates, the independent election solicitor that's counting up shareholder proxy votes and weeding out duplicates (shareholders could--and did--vote more than once; what matters is the last ballot cast), has the official results. In the meantime, HP plans to "vigorously defend" itself against Hewlett's accusations of vote manipulation. "We find it regrettable that Mr. Hewlett has chosen to resort to baseless claims without regard to the impact of his false accusations on HP's business reputation and employees," HP said in a statement. And the lawsuit won't affect the merger. "We don't expect it to hold up the process one bit," an HP spokeswoman says. "It's full steam ahead."

This is sounding more and more like Florida all the time. Is it déjà vu all over again, or an accelerated instance of Santayana's repeatable history? Cast your vote(s), along with an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about snake oil, industry standards, or HP's reputation, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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