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[gtld-com] ALAC Statement on new gTLDs

The At-Large Advisory Committee welcomes the opportunity to submit 
comments on the two issues on the table regarding new gTLDs:

    1. Criteria for introduction of a limited number of sponsored 
gTLDs as part of the Board's "proof of concept" initial round of TLD 
    2. Whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level 
namespace in if so, how to do so.


At-large Internet users are both domain name registrants and users of 
the domain name system. As users, they are well served by TLDs that 
are not confusingly similar, enabling them to differentiate the names 
they encounter and minimize typographic or semantic mistakes; they 
are also served by a namespace that is inclusive and provides access 
to a wide variety of speakers and information sources. As 
registrants, the "at large" are perhaps the most likely to be 
underserved by community-defined, chartered gTLDs. Not all 
individuals are necessarily a part of any of these communities, yet 
they will want places to publicize their small businesses, engage in 
political debate, discuss their interests, and host weblogs, to name 
a few. Categorization and eligibility requirements will often act as 
barriers to entry to such registrants. As a whole, at-large 
registrants are most likely to be served by a range of TLD options 
available to all potential registrants, including a variety of true 
generics for those that do not fit in neat categories.

These interests are compatible; confusion can be minimized without 
narrowly structuring registrations. They are also compatible with 
ICANN's limited mandate. ICANN should not be setting itself up as 
judge of the utility or fitness of business plans, but only as a 
technical judge of what is likely to create confusion or interfere 
with the functioning of the domain name system.

I. Criteria to Be Used in the Selection of New Sponsored Top-Level Domains

References: ICANN Paper http://www.icann.org/riodejaneiro/stld-rfp-topic.htm
Report on Compliance by Sponsored gTLDs with the Registration 
Requirements of Their Charters 

Both the paper and report on existing sponsored TLDs err in focusing 
primarily on exclusion: Do the sponsored gTLDs represent a limited 
community and adhere to their charters by permitting registrants only 
from within that community? The question more important to the 
public's communicative goals, however, is the flip side: Are there 
people or organizations who are left without logical places to 
register domain names, or who are denied registration in a sponsored 
TLD whose charter they fit? It is easy to make the error rate 
arbitrarily low by asking questions that examine only one kind of 
error -- gTLDs could block all cybersquatters simply by refusing any 
registrations, but that would hardly serve the point of adding new 

Instead, the Board should look, in both the sponsored additions and 
in the general question of "structure," to ensuring that all who want 
to establish online presences can obtain domain names.

Financial qualifications and entry fees can be barriers to entry of 
new and smaller gTLD participants, as well as to non-profits. While 
fees may be necessary to discourage spurious applications and to 
recover assessment costs, minimal criteria can help to minimize costs 
and fees. ICANN should examine the possible introduction of a second, 
lower fee scale for non-profit applicants.

II. Whether the Generic Top-Level Namespace Should Be Structured

References: Draft 3.1.2 of the ICANN GNSO Council gTLDS committee 
report ("Draft") 

At this stage, there appears to be general consensus on the GNSO 
gTLDs Committee to advise against "structure" in the first instance. 
As the Draft states, "It was agreed that a future expansion of the 
gTLD name space should take place in such a way that was 
demand-driven and bottom-up and in a way that increased competition 
while avoiding net user confusion and deception. To the extent that 
this report has a set of recommendations, it would seem there is 
support for the idea that the structure of the future gTLD namespace 
should be structured determined in a number of ways primarily by the 
choices of suppliers and end users in the market." The ALAC supports 
this recommendation.

Market participants, including both businesses and non-commercial 
organizations, users and suppliers, are better positioned to indicate 
where new TLDs are needed through demand and willingness to supply. 
The ALAC supports the proposition that proposal of a name by a 
competent registry/delegant/sponsor provides as much 
"differentiation" as is necessary. (Draft para. 14) Every TLD has a 
natural monopoly in the SLDs registered under it, but ICANN policy 
should not extend that monopoly any further. Put slightly 
differently, a name should be acceptable within any gTLD structure if 
users want it and it does no harm to the domain name system.

In order for market determination to be successful, ICANN must enable 
a genuine competitive market to develop. At present, there appears to 
be some tension between market competition and desire to protect 
registrants from the consequences of registry failure (Draft paras. 
10-12). The intermediate road ICANN has taken, a heavily regulated 
market (rather than free market or openly acknowledged planning), 
tends to produce false assumptions and conclusions about what "the 
market" will support (and thus to justify further planning). The ALAC 
supports the Draft's recommendations that zone file escrow and 
transfer arrangements be investigated as ways to mitigate registry 
failure. The ALAC also recommends further examination of separation 
of the policy and technical roles of new-TLD-registries, as suggested 
in Ross Rader's proposal for distinct Delegants (policy) and 
Operators (technical), see 

Consistent with openness to a variety of names and business models, 
ALAC supports expansion that allows both sponsored and unsponsored 
names. (Draft para 15) Along with Milton Mueller and Lee McKnight, 
"We do not oppose and may often favor the creation of new TLDs that 
are sponsored and restricted. But many users have no interest in or 
need for authenticated and restricted domains. That is why there are 
thousands of times more registrations in open domains than in 
restricted domains." Mueller & Mc Knight, "The post-.COM Internet," 

IDNs: Any evaluation of IDNgTLDs (internationalized domain name 
generic TLDs) should ensure participation in the linguistic review 
for confusion by the language community that would primarily use and 
be affected by the IDN policy.  The ALAC plans to discuss IDNs in 
more detail in a separate document.

Thank you.
Wendy Seltzer -- wendy@seltzer.com || wendy@eff.org
Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School

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