Why ICANN is really in the Dot Com business
Date: Monday October 15 2001, @04:06AM
Topic: New gTLDs

kodo writes "By Kendall Dawson <kendall@paradigm.nu>

Afilias' marketing consultants conducted a variety of domestic and international market studies of the .web, .info, and .site strings. Their study found that .web was most likely to succeed as a viable and immediate alternative to the current Top Level Domains (TLDs), and thus would most successfully constitute a true proof-of-concept. The studies indicated that, of the three strings, .web was the most popular, most easily recognized in different languages, and would easily and quickly gain international acceptance. [1] A company called Image Online Design [2] created and has been continuously operating the .web registry since 1996. If the ICANN Board had given Image Online Design the official authorization to implement their .web TLD in November of 2000, the whole proof-of-concept process might have succeeded."

This would have meant that several million registrations in the .com TLD that were unmarketable, awkward or merely speculative might have been abandoned for better .web domains instead. This would have cost Afilias' and the other ICANN accredited registrars hundreds of millions of dollars in lapsed .com renewals. According to Network Solutions: "net revenue for domain sales increased 107% from 1997 to 1998. This increase in net revenue was primarily attributable to the increase in the number of domain name registrations, principally in the .com top level domain." [3]

Even with the backing of billion-dollar Internet corporations, Afilias has made some very basic technical errors. [4] They have made errors in judgment, set up sloppy policies, and have unnecessarily cut corners that have cost them credibility. As a result, they have made the .info TLD no more attractive than the many other rogue domains, pseudo-TLDs or third level "domains". Now, the Internet community needs an authority-figure to get involved and help straighten this whole mess out. Chances are this authority will be ICANN -- who else?

As the demand for new Top Level Domains continues to increase, the only viable choice for businesses is still the .com TLD. Most companies have to buy second-hand domains through one of the large brokerage or auction houses which are (not surprisingly) subsidiaries of Afilias' member companies. Remember: companies, like Network Solutions, make a commission on the actual value of the domain sold. This can often be much higher than the fee for registering a new domain name. This alone could quickly dwarf the potential revenue from selling names in one of the new TLDs (like .info). Another point to consider is that by awarding the new TLD to an existing monopoly - no new competition was actually created! During the November 2000 annual Board meeting, Esther Dyson made this point quite clear. [5]

So, the real truth about Afilias is that they're not really in the .info business at all, they're in the .com business - and so is ICANN. Where is all the advertising that necessitated that ICANN choose a company that could afford it? [6] And what about the policy of awarding generic names to companies with trademarks ? Everyone else (the courts, the Universal Dispute Resolution Policy, World Intellectual Property Organization, etc.) has recognized the legitimacy of the many entities who were not eligible for trademarks because they actually deal with their product in a literal sense. For example, if they had used the NeuLevel approach: "apple.info" would have likely gone to one of the many organizations which supply us with the orchard fruit! Instead Afilias has succeeded in ensuring that "surfing" the .info namespace would be a largely pointless exercise and one more reason for companies and businesses to opt for the well established .com instead of the more generic .info.

In their application to get a Top Level Domain, Afilias outlined to ICANN a very specific technical plan. During the selection of the new TLDs, ICANN heartily praised Afilias' plan while dismissing Image Online Design's almost identical plan. Afilias has not only not implemented their plan, but they've diverged from it in every aspect possible.

Afilias has implemented a "sunrise period" for the .info TLD. This allowed trademark holders to claim their marks in the new TLD before anyone else was allowed to register. Perhaps one thing we've learned in this "proof of concept" phase is that sunrise periods are a concept that we've proven just don't work! It's obvious that, given a chance, people will make up bogus trademark information to defraud the Internet public out of generic names that should be available to all. Let's not even mention the legitimate trademark holders that, in addition to their own marks, have also gamed the system to grab any other marks they can get their hands on.

Afilias has been plagued by thousands of "fraudulent" trademark claims for generic words in the new .info TLD. Afilias has vowed to investigate these claims and prosecute anyone caught abusing the system. It is going to be extremely difficult for them to challenge some of these "apparently fraudulent" registrations but not others. And, when they do investigate these claims what criteria are they going to be using? The worst blow to their credibility is yet to come in this still-unfolding fiasco.

And we should not go into detail on the Government Adivsory Committee's demand that all geographical names in the .info TLD be reserved for governments. But, ICANN has done absolutely nothing to stop this outrageous request. Who is entitled to the domain "hollywood.info"? Does it go to California or Florida?

It's time for ICANN to put its failures aside and realize that .info and .biz do not represent the proof of concept that they were looking for. They need to open up the selection process again and, they should do it immediately! As it currently stands, the few TLDs that ICANN did select do nothing but maintain the artificial scarcity that previously existed.

I expect that ICANN will try to distance themselves from the whole .info fiasco, much like they did in ensuring that they were not part of the injunction recently placed upon .biz. I suspect that ICANN will probably use both of these cases as an excuse to delay the introduction of any new TLDs (and, by extension any new competition) for years and years. Which makes perfect sense, since ICANN was never interested in creating competition in the first place! Remember: they're in the .com business, and intend to stay there.

If ICANN is not guilty of the charges levied in this article, they need to approve the rest of the qualified applicants and start to create real competition in the namespace. Not in two years, not even in one year, but now! Because if they don't, it just proves that ICANN is really in the .com business.

Is there an antitrust lawyer in the house?

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Re: Why ICANN is really in the Dot Com business
by Ron_Bennett on Monday October 15 2001, @01:11PM (#2935)
User #3011 Info | http://www.wyomissing.com/bennett/
My thoughts regarding this article...

From a .INFO / .BIZ registrant perspective, I'm miffed how badly these new TLDs have been managed while ICANN seems to be ignoring the whole situation. Applications "lost", bogus IP claims, illegal lotteries, and general incompetence all around...

But from a .COM registrant perspective, I'm so relieved and happy!! My businesses are going to save tens of thousands of dollars by not having to worry about all these new TLDs - and at the same time .COM domains have just become more valuable and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

The article hit on to something few people have considered - .COM is so valuable that it's in ICANN's interest (big business) to make sure new TLDs fail; this should not come as any surprise to anyone who use to read the Domain-Policy list where the demise of new TLDs was long predicted.

Domain Policy List Archives - late 1999 to May-24-2001 (the end) - about 20 MB http://www.wyomissing.com/bennett/domainpolicyarchives.zip

Anyways, it's a great day in .COM land! Thanks again for ICANN for everything!! :-;

[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Re: Why ICANN is really in the Dot Com business
by Ron_Bennett on Monday October 15 2001, @05:03PM (#2938)
User #3011 Info | http://www.wyomissing.com/bennett/

You're learning quick :-)

But don't just take my word for it...if you have the time, download the Domain-Policy archives (see my last reply for the URL) and read them - they are ascii files and thus easily searchable...definitely an education as to how business is really done in many circles...it's not a question of who or what is right/wrong/better/worse, but rather it's simply who knows who and the what's in it for us mentality that drives things in business.
[ Reply to This | Parent ]
Kendall's reply
by kodo (binaryloop@nospam.yahoo.com) on Tuesday October 16 2001, @04:34PM (#2967)
User #21 Info | http://www.paradigm.nu/icann

Read the rest of this comment...

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