The history of nic.at
Who is nic.at and where are its roots?
nic.at GmbH is the official registry for all domains ending with .at, .co.at and .or.at. The abbreviation NIC is for Network Information Center - nic.at is the central node of the .at-zone. Back in 1988, the first registrations below the Top Level Domain ".at" were managed by the University of Vienna. Further information about this can be found at http://comment.univie.ac.at/00-2/2/. However, the increasing amount of registrations made it necessary to have the business organised by a company rather than an administration office or public authority. In the middle of 1998, the company "nic.at Internet Verwaltungs- und Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H." (since 2012: nic.at GmbH) was established by the ISPA (association of the Internet Service Providers Austria), which was also the owner of nic.at until the year 2000.
More competence by a change of ownership
The possibilities of an association soon started to reach the limits. An optimal domain administration required more management capacity and more resources than those which were affordable on a reasonable basis by an association board that works on a voluntary basis. So the ISPA board realised that a more appropriate ownership structure than an association would be necessary in order to make nic.at a good provider of services for the local Austrian internet community in the long term. The chosen structure - the foundation of a limited liability company and a 100% transfer into the charitable Internet Private Foundation Austria - corresponds to the current structure in many EU-countries (e.g. Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden). The new structure enabled a more professional approach and more innovations: A central role is taken by the Domain Name Council, which is an advisory body of the IPA that decides upon basic issues of the domain name delegation policy. Besides national and international experts, the DNC consists of representatives of internet users and service providers. This way, all interest groups of the local internet community can both take part and exercise control.
New tasks - new services
nic.at has developed from its tasks. The demand for .at-domains has been great from the beginning - at the end of 2000 there were already 160,000 domain names registered. At the same time, the requirements for the domain management were increasing. New fields of activity - like customer care, registrar service, billing and accounting - were gradually taken over and developed by separate departments within nic.at. The technical operation of the .at-zone has remained with the Vienna University Computer Center (ZID). The increasing number of legal inquiries and domain name disputes between the domain holders (e.g. trademark rights) made it necessary to establish an internal legal competence - also with regard to legal disputes that were affecting the registry nic.at itself. The nic.at legal department has been quite successful regarding consultation and the settlement of legal disputes out of court.
In summer 2000, Richard Wein was appointed as the CEO responsible for finance, administration, organisation and IT. In September 2003, Robert Schischka joined nic.at as a second CEO, who is primarily responsible for the technical operation.