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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
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    sTLDs hoping to enter legacy root (Belated) Response to Tim Berners-Lee on New TLDs
    posted by Mueller on Tuesday November 02 2004, @02:56AM

    [Editor's note: the following article was written shortly after Tim Berners-Lee released his attack on the .mobi sTLD, but never published because the author (me) assumed that the ideas contained therein would not be taken seriously. There now being cause to doubt that assumption, we open the time capsule, circa July, 2004....]

    Let's take Berner-Lee's ideas one by one and disassemble their (il)logic:

    TBL: "[It] is unwise, as an architectural principle, to put semantics into names."

    Tim, set me straight on this. I thought the semantics were put into domain names back around 1982. And hey, wasn’t it your WWW naming conventions, which made domain names the shortest way to name a web site, responsible for creating a $2 billion market around those semantics after 1993?

    Now, if I’m not mistaken, you propose to limit participation in that market to the people who already happen to be in it. You want to undermine the hierarchical structure of DNS and perpetuate a risky technical lopsidedness in which half of the world’s registrations, and almost all of the biggest web sites, are in one TLD. And you want to limit the names to the arbitrary set of quasi-categories cooked up by a few computer scientists for a small closed network 20 years ago. Why and what for?

    TBL: Creation of new TLDs devalues existing names. "The value of one's original registration drops" as the number of new top-level domains increase.

    OK, less discuss the economics of domain names. Although you dress up your ideas as "design issues" you have clearly admitted here that it's about economics and policy, not design. And in those fields, I note respecfully, you have no more expertise than the man on the street.

    When you talk about declining value, what “value” are you referring to? There are two logical possibilities.

    One form of value is the scarcity value of the name itself; i.e., the name as an exclusively occupied resource that might be bought and sold in a market. If that is what you mean, then of course the scarcity value of any domain name registration declines as supply increases. An expansion in the supply of any resource by definition decreases the market value of any individual unit. But the scarcity value of a domain name should decline if society can produce them in greater abundance. The value of the condominium I bought might go down if people build new apartment buildings nearby. That’s tough luck for me, but it’s good for society: more housing is available at a lower price. The market value of integrated circuits has declined massively for thirty years because we have learned how to make tons more of them. Tough luck for those who produce them more expensively. Do you want ICANN to function like the OPEC cartel, and engage in price maintenance by artificially limiting production?

    And by the way, Tim: if you really want to follow this logic and protect the “value” of existing registrations you would not only limit the creation of new TLDs, you would limit registrations within TLDs as well. You would have to argue against every new second-level domain registration under .com, not just against new TLDs. After all, the scarcity value of example.com is also diluted by the existence of near-substitutes within .com, such as example1.com, anexample.com, and so on. We can’t have people cluttering up the name space, now, can we? (Don’t think the suggestion is outlandish – in the old days, many domain name registries dominated by an engineering mindset. did impose a “one domain name to an organization” policy.)

    But you may be referring to another kind of “value.” You might be referring to the value of a domain name to attract users who are searching for a web site or web content, or its value as an identifier or the person, web site or organization behind the name. But hey, I thought you said it was wrong to combine semantics with names. And I thought Jon Postel said he didn’t think the DNS should try to function as a directory.

    Anyway, if that’s the kind of value you mean, then an additional TLD with those horrible semantics in it might increase rather than decrease value. New TLDs might create new forms of value precisely because their semantics are different from other TLDs. .sex has quite different connotations than .org. If you’re Chinese, there’s a lot more value in a domain name like . than there is in the ASCII translation.

    TBL: As the number of TLDs increases, "the cost of protecting a brand goes up."

    You may be confused about economics again. Or maybe I’m confused. A few sentences back in your esteemed and deep policy document you advocated limiting supply to artificially inflate the value of existing registrations. Now you’re complaining about the high cost of protecting brands. What you don’t seem to grasp is that the two are related. If the scarcity value of domain names increase, then they become more attractive targets for speculators. The best way to undermine name speculation is to eliminate the scarcity value of names altogether by adding more TLDs, lots of them. Domain name speculators can easily afford to register hundreds of names in a limited name space dominated by .com, and trade on the illicit value. They can’t afford to invest in the content and services that actually attract traffic. The more we live in a .com-dominated world, the bigger the problem of domain name speculation becomes.

    TBL: A trademark holder "is forced" to register their brand in every new TLD that comes along.

    Reality check, Tim. There are ten times more registrations in .com than there are in .org. Put in more specific terms, that means that there are more than 30 million .com domain name holders who haven’t even bothered to defensively register in the world’s 4th most popular domain, much less "every other TLD in the world."

    There are rules and laws protecting trademark holders from real abuses. Lots of them. Don’t worry too much about it, OK? Those guys can take care of themselves. But the idea that an entire TLD can be sustained economically by forcing trademark owners to make defensive registrations is not a viable business plan. And the more TLDs there are, the less viable it becomes.

    TBL: "The root of the domain name system is a single public resource, by design."

    Sorry, Tim. The world “public resource” does not appear in any DNS design document. In fact, when DNS was designed the Internet wasn’t a network open to the public, and neither the business nor the resource economics of domain name registration were on anyone’s mind. Interesting how code writers managed to retroactively characterize themselves as constitutionalistsa and founding fathers of political economy...But I digress. You’re making an important statement. I think I’m really beginning to understand where you’re coming from, Tim. So let’s start over and let you have your full say on the political economy of DNS:

    "As each node in the [DNS] tree represents a potentially valuable asset, control of any subset of the tree is valuable. Control of the entire tree is managed by ICANN, which is set up to be a non-profit international institution, with the intent that it should as such carry the trust of the entire community in its efforts to manage the system for the common good. [snip] The root of the domain name system is a single public resource, by design. Its control must be for and, indirectly, by the people as a whole. To give away a large chunk of this to a private group would be simply a betrayal of the public trust put in ICANN."

    OK, so any TLD represents a grant of massive economic value from “the public,” (represented by, um, ICANN) to a “private group.” And by the same logic, so does every grant of a second-level domain name, especially REALLY valuable ones like Now if I’m following your logic, Tim, what you really don’t like about these new TLDs is that they are private and commercial, and represent a step away from that great socialist ideal of a public resource managed for the public good.

    And we all know how devoted ICANN is to the public and its good...umm, never mind.

    But why stop there, Tim? Nixing TLDs that don’t even exist yet leaves you far from your utopia. Why not take .com and .net away from VeriSign and .info away from Afilias and aol.com away from Time Warner and the same for all the other commercial infidels? Have it all run by ICANN. Then it could ensure that ALL branches of the tree are assigning in the public good. Hey, you may have hit upon a new political philosophy here. Instead of the “one big Union” of the 1930s, we can have “one big ICANN” running the whole Internet!

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      Related Links  
    · Afilias
    · VeriSign/NSI
    · ICANN
    · attack on the .mobi sTLD
    · More sTLDs hoping to enter legacy root stories
    · Also by Mueller
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    (Belated) Response to Tim Berners-Lee on New TLDs | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 17 comments | Search Discussion
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    Pointer to my own response from May of this year..
    by KarlAuerbach on Tuesday November 02 2004, @05:21AM (#14410)
    User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
    Here's a pointer to my own comments on the original note - Techies wanna do policy [cavebear.com]

    In that note I come to the conclusion that many technologists look fondly back to some imagined era of halcyon bliss on the internet. Some of those who once lept past the status quo and invented are now using technical arguments, often faux-technical arguments, to restrain those who which to leap past today's status quo and innovate further.

    We know fully well that the domain name system can support litterally millions of top level domains. So even an approach that is conservative upon conservative would allow one new TLD per week. At that rate it would take thousands of years to get to what we know today are technically viable numbers of TLDs.

    Between aging technologists (myself included) and those (such as the intellectual property industry) who have perceived a short-term economic interest in internet stagnation there are mighty forces linked up against not only the free interplay of economic forces on the net but also against the development of any new technology unless that technology is rendered inert, sterile, and unlikely to contain innovative forces to disturb the status quo.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Pointer to my own response from May of this yea by Anonymous Tuesday November 02 2004, @03:34PM
      • Re:Pointer to my own response from May of this yea by Anonymous Wednesday November 03 2004, @05:31AM
      • Re:Pointer to my own response from May of this yea
        by KarlAuerbach on Wednesday November 03 2004, @10:14PM (#14419)
        User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
        Perhaps many names will confuse you, but is it right for you to impose your own subjective judgement on everyone else? If you can be emperor of the internet then why can't I or why can't Fred down the street?

        The subject nature of your objection contains the seeds of its own failure - the absence of enunciated and reasonbly objective principles that underly your objection render any idea of governance unworkable.

        Going directly to your assertion that adding a new TLD a week will add to confusion - remember that means that by year 2054 we would have less than 3000 total TLDs - In .com there are more than 3000 name changes a day. And nobody is arguing that .com should be shut down because it is confusing.

        In Orwell's 1984 the English language was 'simplified' into NewSpeak - should we reduce the domain name space in the same way in order to reduce confusion. Sould we remove the letter 0 and digit 0 from domain names because they might be considered confusing?

        And if confusion is the metric, then ENUM is certainly a no-starter.

        We do not impose limits on the number of names that one can put on detergent and toothpaste - there is a simple self-corrective force - if people can't remember the name then the product will fail. Similarly, the burden of establishing a memorable name in the domain name system should not be imposed on the DNS itself but rather should be part of the well known job of "building the brand" that has been done by vendors for ages.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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