ICANN GNSO Council gTLDS committee - new gTLDs, conclusions v7
Report Contents: (3 pages)
Expanding the name space – objectives
Expanding the name space – possible criteria for future registries
Annexes: (16 pages)
1. Background on establishment of the committee.
2. Constituency positions.
The GNSO council invoked a committee of the whole to address the question asked of it by the ICANN Board (resolution 2.151 see annex 1): “whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level namespace and, if so, how to do so.” The committee met monthly by telephone conference between February and May 2003 and all constituencies submitted written positions during this time. The committee included representatives of the At-large Advisory Committee and the Government Advisory Committee.
One important question was the interpretation of the meaning of “structured”. Some participants related the question to the statement on “taxonomic rationalization” made by the ICANN CEO in October 2002, and interpreted “structured” as meaning to them a top-down taxonomy with a pre-determined set of names chosen by ICANN. Others saw no conflict between the concept of an evolving differentiated structure and a bottom-up, demand–driven system. This issue aroused much discussion but no consensus – these two broad viewpoints reflect those discussions.
The addition of Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) gTLDs should follow the same general principles as other gTLD additions. The committee chose not to address the specifics as to how those principles should be applied to IDNs, believing that that level of detail is best left to a future policy development process.
It was agreed that a future expansion 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. There were two linked conclusions.
1. Expansion of the gTLD namespace should be a bottom-up approach with names proposed by the interested parties to ICANN. Expansion should be demand-driven. There is no support for a pre-determined list of new names that prospective registries would bid for.
2. In line with ideas set-out in the Lynn paper March 2003 the committee endorsed the concept of a set of objectives that should be met in any future expansion and criteria applicable to future registries. The development of these criteria should be the subject of a new Policy Development Process (PDP). Possible criteria for this PDP are listed below.
Expanding the name space – objectives
A DNSO Names Council resolution (http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20000419.NCgtlds-statement.html) of 19 April 2000 stated with respect to new gTLDs that: “Implementation should promote competition in the domain-name registration business at the registry and registrar levels. The Names Council recognizes that any roll-out must not jeopardize the stability of the Internet, and assumes a responsible process for introducing new gTLDs, which includes ensuring that there is close coordination with organizations dealing with Internet protocols and standards.”
An ICANN Board resolution of 16 July 2000 () stated the broad objectives of expanding the top level namespace as the enhancement of competition for registration services at the registry and registrar level and the enhancement of the utility of the Domain Name System.
The report of ICANN CEO Stuart Lynn (http://www.icann.org/riodejaneiro/stld-rfp-topic.htm) in March 2003 added that the purpose of introducing new names was to add value by making the domain name system more useful and more accessible to broader communities of interest and to more end users.
The committee believes it helpful to summarize these objectives:
· Future expansion should enhance competition for registration services at the registry and registrar level.
· Future expansion should enhance the utility of the Domain Name System.
· Future names should be both for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
· Future expansion should add-value to the domain name system. The purpose of introducing new names is to make the domain name system more useful and more accessible to broader communities of interest and to more end users.
Expanding the name space – possible criteria for future registries
There should be a consistent and common set of safeguards for consumers and users in the introduction of new generic Top-Level Domain Names (gTLDs). A policy development process to define the set of criteria may consider the following discussed in committee:
1. Future registries should comply with all ICANN consensus policies such as the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy and WHOIS.
2. A new gTLD proposal should avoid names that have the potential to confuse net users because they are typographically similar to, variants of, or derived words from, existing gTLDs.
3. A new gTLD proposal should avoid names that might deceive or defraud net users.
4. A new gTLD proposal should propose names that assist the Internet end user to determine the relationship of the name and its stated purpose.
5. There should be an assurance of continuity in the event of business failure. Note the ICANN Board resolution of 16 July 2000 endorsed: “the need to maintain the Internet's stability, and especially the protection of domain-name holders from the effects of registry or registration-system failure.” The investment made by registrants in their name should be protected from the consequences of registry failure. It may be sufficient that ICANN maintains the ability to itself swiftly transfer the relevant TLD zone file* from the failed registry to another registry. There is a need for rules to determine the conditions under which such a transfer would take place.
* A zone file contains data describing a portion of the domain name space. Zone files contain the information needed to resolve domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) numbers.
6. Competence. Registries should be required to demonstrate technical and financial competence during the contract-negotiation stage with ICANN. This demonstration should not be a significant barrier to entry. Financial competence will need to be demonstrated in a uniform and objective way though this may be context relevant to the specific business model and proposed size of the gTLD. A performance bond may be an elegant solution for ICANN: it in effect devolves the judgement on financial competence to a third party while providing the required reassurance.
Registries could operate multiple gTLDs.
A single registry need not be linked uniquely with one name. However, in order to meet the objective on competition, this flexibility will need to be limited to the extent that it might lead to market dominance in the supply of registry services. A determination on dominance needs to be well balanced: ICANN should not set unnecessary barriers to entry for new applicants by restricting their choice of business partners, nor needlessly prevent new applicants benefiting from any economies of scale resulting from multiple TLD registries.
To the extent that a TLD is sponsored, sponsors would typically sponsor a single gTLD, though it would be possible for an entity to sponsor additional names where the nature of the sponsored space is complimentary.
Differentiation. There is wide but not universal support for what was termed variously segmentation or differentiation. Most participants agreed that each new gTLD must be clearly differentiated from any other gTLD already assigned. If a new registry/sponsor proposed a name that met the objectives above and promised differentiation which seemed reasonably achievable, that should be sufficient. As stated by a representative on the non-commercial constituency, whether the applicant subsequently succeeded in achieving true differentiation would be a function of the success of its business model.
To sponsor or not to sponsor?
The Non-commercial and the At-large representatives favoured both sponsored and unsponsored names. The two supplier constituencies (Registrars and gTLD registries) simply favoured expansion.
Expansion of the name space of only sponsored gTLDs was universally preferred by the constituencies who represent commercial users (the Business Constituency, the Intellectual Property Constituency, and the Internet Service Providers).
The application fee for future applications for names should discourage spurious applicants, but should also not penalize losers beyond the actual administrative costs borne by ICANN.
Background on establishment of the committee
October 2002, the ICANN CEO’s action plan on gTLDs made the recommendation below.
Part III Recommendation: As ICANN proceeds with its new TLD evaluation process – and, if the Board concurs, with an additional round of new sponsored TLDs – this basic question of taxonomic rationalization should be addressed within the ICANN process. Accordingly, it is my recommendation to the ICANN Board that the DNSO and its Names Council be requested to develop and submit its advice and guidance on the issue.
December 2002, the Board agreed with the recommendation and made the three resolutions below.
Whereas, the Board accepted the report of the ICANN New TLD Evaluation Process Planning Task Force (NTEPPTF) at its meeting on 23 August 2002;
Whereas, at that meeting the Board instructed the President to develop a plan for action for approval by the Board;
Whereas, the President presented An Action Plan Regarding New TLDs for discussion at the Public Forum in Shanghai on 30 October 2002, and posted that Action Plan for public comment on 8 November 2002;
Whereas, comments have been received, posted, and evaluated regarding that Action Plan;
Whereas, the Action Plan was again discussed at the Public Forum in Amsterdam on 14 December 2002; and
Whereas, the Action Plan recommends that key recommendations of the NTEPPTF report be implemented; that certain questions regarding the future evolution of the generic top-level namespace be referred for advice to the GNSO described in Article X of the New Bylaws approved in Shanghai on 31 October 2002 and as further refined at this meeting; and that steps be taken towards approval of a limited number of new sponsored gTLDs;
§ Resolved [02.150] that the Board authorizes the President to take all steps necessary to implement those aspects of the NTEPPTF recommendations as specified in the Action Plan;
§ Resolved [02.151] that the Board requests the GNSO to provide a recommendation by such time as shall be mutually agreed by the President and the Chair of the GNSO Names Council on whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level namespace and, if so, how to do so;
§ Resolved [02.152] that the Board directs the President to develop a draft Request for Proposals for the Board's consideration in as timely a manner as is consistent with ICANN staffing and workload for the purpose of soliciting proposals for a limited number of new sponsored gTLDs.
February 2003, ICANN’s general counsel has clarified that the Board asked for the GNSO Council to formulate and communicate its views on two separate questions. The questions are:
a. whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level namespace and,
b. if there should be structuring, how to do so.
Constituency positions (in alphabetical order)
1. Commercial and Business Users
2. gTLD Registries
3. Intellectual Property Interests
4. Internet Service and Connectivity Providers
5. Non-Commercial Users
7. At-large Advisory Committee
Business Constituency Position Paper
A Differentiated Expansion of the Names Space – December 2002
In 2002, just under 30 million generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) and approximately 12 million country-code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) were registered. In late 2000, ICANN authorized as a proof of concept four new unsponsored names (dot biz, info, name, pro) and three sponsored names (museum, aero, co-op). The ICANN board has authorized an evaluation: this needs to move ahead with urgency. In parallel at the October 2002 Shanghai meeting ICANN launched a debate on a process for how to introduce further gTLDs. The need for such a process was mentioned in the September 2002 memorandum between the US Department of Commerce and ICANN. The Business Constituency (BC) endorses this process and recommends the ICANN Board refer the process to the DNSO/GNSO Names Council.
A new approach to the registry – name relationship
The BC proposes a separation of the registry and the name. In contrast to the earlier ICANN process, where a single registry lived or died by one proposed name, there should be a set of qualified registries free to operate the back-end of multiple gTLDs, each of which has a different sponsor. Under this system, a registry that failed could be replaced by another registry without removing the name from the domain name system, and so protecting the investment of registrants.
A differentiated expansion of the name space
Given that there is pressure on ICANN to introduce additional names, the BC supports the development of a logical expansion, which will result in a name space with added value, rather than the cloning of the existing space. Such a value-added space will create differentiation and reduce the need for entities to defensively register.
Users – regardless whether they are businesses, non-profit organizations or individuals – want certainty. Spending time searching is not cost effective. The user community needs a certain process for identifying prospective names and a certain process for selecting sponsors/registries to operate those names:
§ Step 1 ICANN agrees to a set of principles for all future domain names.
§ Step 2 ICANN invites qualified sponsors and registries to apply for names conforming to those principles.
The principles – all new domain names must meet the following principles:
a gTLD must be clearly differentiated from other gTLDs
a gTLD must give the user confidence that it stands for what it purports to stand for
a gTLD must avoid increasing opportunities for bad faith entities who wish to defraud users
a gTLD must create value-added competition
a gTLD must serve commercial or non-commercial users
a gTLD must have meaning to its relevant population of users
Creating a logical names space by adherence to the principles
The principles in effect determine a taxonomised or directory-style domain name structure. This taxonomised structure opens up a range of places where individuals, companies and organisations will find a place they want to be, and where users can easily find them. The structure does not imply a rapid expansion. The choice of one name will preclude future non-differentiated choices.
Avoiding the need for defensive registrations
The BC sees no value in new unsponsored/unrestricted names and would need to be convinced otherwise by the results of the evaluation process. The BC’s current position is that all new names should be sponsored/restricted within the ICANN categorization. (In time some of these new names will be internationalized domain names). The sponsor/registry will be responsible for ensuring the integrity of the domain name to its differentiated, restricted charter. The ability to buy a name in a particular TLD will be restricted to those who can demonstrate they are bona fide members of the target group. Every registrant will be authenticated by the sponsor/registry to ensure that they are registering names that are germane to their businesses and not infringing on another's intellectual property.
Sponsored/restricted gTLDs build consumer confidence because they avoid confusion and limit fraud. In addition, the policing by the sponsor/registry simultaneously solves three intellectual property issues. Cyber-pirates will not be able to obtain the names of others. There will therefore typically be no need for costly defensive registration. New WhoIs databases will be verified and therefore accurate.
Threshold qualifications for applicant registries
Separate to this new naming structure, there needs to be a new process of qualifying registry applicants. The stability of the domain name system requires registries to meet user expectations for sound global business practices. The BC, building upon previous ICANN criteria, proposes certain elements which must be assured by an applicant registry. Depending on the model these may apply to the sponsor or the registry.
ICANN needs to debate and agree to the six principles and the above qualifying process without delay. This longer term view will however only be possible once the evaluation of the last “proof-of-concept” expansion is complete, and this evaluation is taken into account.
In the meantime, the BC can support the proposal of the ICANN CEO for up to another three sponsored/restricted names as a first deployment of the new long-term structure favoured by the BC. The BC proposes that its six principles can provide guidance in this interim expansion.
Annex 1 – ICANN gTLD categories
.org (as at 6.2002)
ICANN definition: A Sponsor is an organization to which ICANN delegates some defined ongoing policy-formulation authority regarding the manner in which a particular sponsored TLD is operated. The sponsored TLD has a Charter, which defines the purpose for which the sponsored TLD has been created and will be operated. The Sponsor is responsible for developing policies on the delegated topics so that the TLD is operated for the benefit of a defined group of stakeholders, known as the Sponsored TLD Community, that are most directly interested in the operation of the TLD. The Sponsor also is responsible for selecting the registry operator and to varying degrees for establishing the roles played by registrars and their relationship with the registry operator.
Applications must conform to the six principles. Applicants must demonstrate an understanding of the needs of the proposed new community of name holders, through meeting a set of criteria which supports the six principles.
§ Building Trust with a UDRP and an accurate WhoIs database
The business plan should promote the interests of intellectual property right holders and avoid the need for defensive registrations. A dispute resolution process that conforms to the ICANN UDRP must be included as well as an accurate and accessible WhoIs conforming to the forthcoming recommendations of the Names Council. The application must support trust by users that names in the new registry space will be what they purport to be. The applicant must agree to adopt all future consensus policies such as those relating to transfers, deletes and renewals.
§ Operations and Technical
Technical and operational management of the registry must be fail-safe on a 7/24 basis worldwide. The technical team, whether employed directly by the manager, or contracted, should be able to demonstrate their ability to install and operate a TLD registry in accordance with existing standards. Plans for database information capture, validation and maintenance must meet expectations for ready access by users and others with authorized access privileges. Data escrow and related disaster recovery procedures must ensure continuity of operations under emergency circumstances.
The financial plan should evidence understanding of the cost of providing registry services for the intended community of name holders. Adequate initial capitalization and arrangements for ongoing working capital, reserves and the cost of technical back-up must be demonstrated.
At its meeting in Amsterdam on 15 December 2002, the ICANN Board passed the following resolution:
"Resolved [02.151] that the Board requests the GNSO to provide a recommendation by such time as shall be mutually agreed by the President and the Chair of the GNSO Names Council on whether to structure the evolution of the generic top level namespace and, if so, how to do so."
1. The Registry Constituency believes that the Board should not structure the evolution of the generic top level name space in a manner that limits the development of a market-based evolution of additional generic top level domains. The Constituency urges the Board to foster this continuing evolution without imposing on it a structure (e.g. sponsored or unsponsored,
chartered or unchartered) that is predetermined by the Board.
2. The Board should solicit technical assistance from the IETF on the question of how many new TLDs can reasonably be added each year, consistent with (a) the requirements of RFC 2628 "IAB Technical Comment on the Unique DNS Root" and (b) the technical stability of the Internet.
3. The Board should promptly establish minimum measurable technical and financial qualifications that all new registry operators should meet.
4. The Board should promptly post for community review a proposed agreement with new registry operators that contains only those provisions reasonably necessary to assure interoperability and stability. It is reasonable to require that new registry operators:
a.) choose new TLD names that are not identical or confusingly similar to other tope-level domain names in the root zone file, and that the operators are subject to a procedure comparable to the UDRP to resolve any disputes that may arise;
b.) adopt the UDRP for the resolution of abusive domain name disputes within the domain;
c.) operate in accordance with established technical standards, including provision for a "disaster recovery" plan in the event the registry operator goes out of business; and
d.) comply with consensus policies adopted by ICANN consistent with the goal of market-based evolution of the name space.
The Board should offer to existing registries similar applicable terms and conditions that are offered to the new registries.
5. The Board should open a process for prospective registry operators that meet the minimum technical and financial qualifications. Each applicant should be free to decide how and whether to restrict or otherwise define its registrants and to propose how to market its name.
6. The Board should establish, after input from the constituencies, a procedure to select from among multiple applicants, either for the same names or for different names, if, because of technical considerations, there are more applicants for names than are then feasible to be added to the name space.
Intellectual Property Interests
Although the IPC's preference was for the NTEPPTF designed study of the seven gTLDs approved in 2000 to be completed prior to the introduction of any additional domain name suffixes, we find generally that properly administered sponsored gTLDs present, as Stuart Lynn states in his paper titled "A Plan for Action Regarding New gTLDs," "fewer worries about trademark infringement and cybersquatting." We therefore do not object to the introduction of a limited number of new sponsored gTLDs, provided that the abbreviated study of existing sponsored gTLDs suggested by Mr. Lynn confirms this finding. (The abbreviated study will, according to Mr. Lynn, ask "Is there any evidence that sponsored TLDs are havens for cybersquatting or other registration abuses likely to cause concerns among significant portions of the Internet community?")
Consistent with previous statements made by the IPC , we strongly suggest that the ICANN Board of Directors insist that applications for the new sponsored gTLDs have clear and specific rules regarding registration in the namespace. Specifically, any new sponsored gTLD should have, at a minimum, clear rules about who is permitted to register second-level domain names in that space, and about what activities are or are not appropriate or acceptable on the corresponding sites, and for what purposes. Furthermore, these applications must also include a system to make sure that prospective domain name applicants qualify for registration under the sponsor's charter prior to obtaining a domain name registration. Moreover, a mechanism needs to be in place to ensure efficient resolution of violations of the sponsored gTLD's charter or restricted nature, and must provide that any third party have standing to challenge a domain name under these mechanisms. In this regard, a procedure must be established whereby a registrant found to have provided false information as to its entitlement to register in the sponsored gTLD, or to have registered or used a domain name registration in violation of the established purpose of the sponsored gTLD, will have the offending domain name removed from the namespace.
The IPC supports the BC suggestion that there be "A differentiated expansion of the name space," and has advocated such a position over the years. The IPC finds merit with the BC position that "all new domain names must meet the following principles": differentiation, certainty, honesty, competition, diversity, and meaning. Finally, the IPC does not as yet have a position on the BC proposal for the separation of the registry and the name, but it is one that is worthy of further consideration.
Position paper on the introduction of new gTLDs
Following the introduction of seven new gTLDs in 2000, four new unsponsored names (dot biz, info, name, pro) and three sponsored names (museum, aero, co-op), debate is now taking place on the introduction of additional new names. The following points set out the views of the ISPCP on this matter and form the basis of the Constituency input to the discussions within the gNSO,
2. A Fundamental Premise
Adding new gTLDs to the DNS is both a policy and technical activity. No action should be taken that might, in any way, threaten the stability of the DNS.
3. Views of the Constituency
The following points reflect the agreed Constituency approach towards the introduction of new gTLDs
· Since 2000, the ISPCP has carefully monitored the process of introducing the seven gTLDs. It notes that through the course of introduction and execution, as well as the experience gained from that exercise, lessons have been learned which should assist the ICANN community in avoiding a repeat of some of the problems which have arose throughout that period.
· In particular, the lessons learned from the initial introduction of new gTLDs should result in a consistent and common set of safeguards for consumers and those that depend on the operation of registries.
· The measured approach to test 'proof of concept' has proved worthwhile, but it is the view of the Constituency that no magic formula has appeared which could ensure that a totally open and uncontrolled approach would not jeopardise the stability of the Internet, or cause significant problems to key Internet stakeholders.
· The ISPCP supports the continuation of a deliberate approach that will facilitate additional learning to occur and experience to be gathered. It is proposed that a phased approach should be adopted, with new names being introduced during set 'windows of opportunity', initially occurring not more than twice per calendar year.
· The ISPCP would support the concept of a task force set up to make periodic recommendations on the process of introducing new gTLDs. This task force should be part of the gNSO and not be dominated by staff.
· Such an approach would enable careful evaluation to take place, with the potential to increase the opportunity to introduce more gTLDs quickly, as lessons are learnt and the practice becomes more robust. The ISPCP believes that eventually the approach should gradually evolve from a “measured approach” to one that is continuous and self managing.
· The ISPCP does not believe there need be a specific prearranged limit on the number of names assigned during each 'window', but each new gTLD must fit within an agreed framework where:
- each new gTLD must be clearly differentiated from any other gTLD already assigned;
- where an application appears to have some alignment with an existing gTLD, its particular use and focus, (how it relates to existing gTLDs) must be carefully scrutinised and only allowed where additional proven benefit and value add can be substantiated. In this case the barrier to assignment should be considered higher than what it would be for a new gTLD where no conflict is deemed to exist.
- An easily understood relationship must exist between a new gTLD and its stated purpose, thereby minimising the chance of user confusion.
· The ISPCP does not support an approach that would see the rapid increase of gTLDs in an uncontrolled manner.
· Care must be taken to ensure that users can substantially invest in the use of a chosen domain without undue fear of failure. This can only be achieved if new domains are introduced in a controlled manner which reduces the likelihood of failure and loss.
· Sponsored gTLDs should be looked on more favourably. They have the potential to overcome many problems by imposing qualifying criteria which have to be met in order to register. However careful judgement must be applied when setting this criteria to ensure undue barriers are not set in place which inhibit their use. At the same time, the ISPCP urges a careful and balanced approach in choosing the subject of sponsored gTLDs, so that ICANN does not become embroiled in policing sensitive gTLDs such as those involving minor children.
· The constituency thinks that existing sponsored registries should be encouraged to (and have the right to) provide Internationalized Domain Name versions of their TLD strings in non-ASCII characters with the same semantic meaning as their ASCII TLD string. They should be given first right of refusal for those IDN strings and not treated as a new proposer of a gTLD.
· In the case where new gTLDs are to be proposed that support Internationalized top level domain names, the constituency believes that consistent rules should be applied. In our opinion the rules must include, an open call for proposals, defined criteria for selection, independent review by technical and financial experts, and full transparency of all proposals. The constituency thinks this set of principles should apply equally to non-ASCII TLD proposals, with additional criteria for selection, perhaps focusing on the proposed registry's plans to meet the needs of (and make policy for) the language communities to be served by a new TLD string in a given script.
NCUC Statement on New TLDs.
V 1.2, 18 February 2003
Approved by Adcom 24 Feb 2003
In response to CEO Stuart Lynn’s call for policy guidance, a GNSO Names Council Committee has adopted a document defining a policy approach to new TLDs. That policy is based on a Business Constituency position paper defining a restrictive approach to name space management.
The proposal is inimical to the interests of most domain name users. If implemented it would have the following negative effects:
1. It would dramatically raise the cost of domain name registration in new TLDs
would limits users’ choice of an online identity and thwart any attempt to
introduce popular new names that respond
ed to real user demand
3. It would bring a halt to competition in the registry market
4. It would defeat any attempt to innovate by tailoring registry architecture and technology to specific markets
The claimed benefits of this approach do not exist:
5. It would not help preserve user service when registries fail
6. It would not have any beneficial effect on users’ ability to find things on the Internet
The NCUC supports a demand-driven approach to TLD additions. ICANN should allow new names to be proposed by interested communities, entrepreneurial registry operators, or a combination of both. We believe that ICANN should define a process that permits addition of a maximum of 30 new TLDs each year. Five of these 30 should be reserved for noncommercial user groups. ICANN’s assessment of these applications should be based on adherence to a minimal set of ICANN-defined technical specifications and conformity to established ICANN policies, such as UDRP. Approving a TLD should be – and could be – as simple as accrediting a registrar. Whether the business models proposed were “sponsored” or “unsponsored,” “restricted” or not, would be up to the applicants. Contention among applicants for the same name would be settled by auction, with the proceeds going to ICANN. We understand that such a procedure raises many issues of detail that are not elaborated here. But the basic policy issue put before the GNSO is whether TLD additions should be demand-driven or “structured.” We favor the open, demand-driven approach.
The NCUC cannot support the proposed GNSO TLD Committee Policy. Contrary to the above stated principle favoring an open and competitive structure, the Committee proposes that no open TLD should be allowed to exist ever again. ICANN would only expand the name space by defining a fixed, mutually exclusive set of categories that users would be stuffed into. All new TLDs would be sponsored and restricted, and registries will be forced to authenticate registrants “to ensure that they are registering names that are germane to their businesses and not infringing on another's intellectual property.” (We note with disappointment the proposal’s apparent inability to understand that not all domain names are owned by “businesses.”)
The Committee also proposes a radical change in the nature of the domain name registration industry. It proposes that registries should have no control over the TLD names that they operate. Instead, ICANN will make itself a central planning authority for the name space, defining all TLD names and assigning operation of the names to “qualified” registry operators. We note that the proposal says nothing about the critical issue of how names are assigned to registries, an issue of tremendous political and economic importance.
We wish to make the following observations:
§ The concept of a “structured” or “taxonomised” name space, faces a great deal of opposition among ICANN participants, and has no apparent support outside the BC/trademark constituencies. At the Amsterdam public forum, opponents outnumbered supporters by a 10 to 1 ratio. We also note that a member of the BC and a member of the Intellectual Property constituency were among the public critics of the proposal in Amsterdam.
§ The proposal favors the interests of incumbent registries who do not want to face competition from new entrants, and a small class of major corporate trademark holders, who comprise 5 percent of the relevant population of users at most. Worse, it does so at the expense of noncommercial and other users who benefit from registry-based competition. We believe that economic protectionism is an illegitimate policy concern and should play no role in ICANN’s approach to new TLDs. We believe that IPR holders do have legitimate concerns about defensive registrations, but that those concerns are best addressed through UDRP and other ex post facto policy measures, not by throttling the market for domain names. Only one quarter of one percent of all registrations are ever challenged. Artificially-imposed scarcity of TLDs increases the gains from illicit forms of name speculation. TLD expansion would diminish those incentives and reduce cybersquatting in the long term.
Above, we noted 6 reasons why the GNSO Committee proposal is not in the interests of domain name users. We elaborate on these problems below.
Forcing all new TLDs to carefully authenticate a correspondence between the identity of a registrant and the TLD name would make all domain name registration a slow and manual process. Costs would quadruple over what users pay now. 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.
The proposal offers a top-down approach to naming that will not be responsive to actual user demand and user needs. It is impossible for ICANN today, or at any time in the future, to predict what names or categories users will find useful and desirable unless it uses a demand-driven approach to TLD addition. Tastes, conditions, and names of interest change over time. Names like <.blog> and <.enum>, utterly meaningless a few years ago, have entered our vocabulary and become important. The root zone must have a procedure to add new names in response to demand. We strongly support the market-oriented, customer-driven approach in which applicants for TLD names/ registries approach ICANN with their ideas, and ICANN has in place an objective, efficient procedure for authorizing them and resolving contention and conflict.
As a constituency whose membership is globally diverse, the NCUC also believes that no centrally imposed naming structure can satisfy the global needs of the Internet; there is too much linguistic, economic, and political diversity. A uniform categorization scheme will result in semantic conflicts; a category name in English might mean something completely different in German.
ICANN’s basic mission is simply to coordinate unique parameters to permit stable and consistent operation of the root zone. It should not attempt to tell the public what names they “ought” to adopt or what categories they “ought” to fit into.
The proposal to separate the registry operator from the name would have a number of negative effects on the domain name market. First, it would discourage if not destroy new entry and competition in the registry market. Since the proposal requires all new names to be restricted, the market size of any new TLDs will be miniscule. Hence, no new registries will find it feasible to enter the market. All new names will be assigned to the few dominant registries that already exist.
Competitive entry would also be discouraged by the inability of a registry operator to have any control over the name they supplied. It is noteworthy that ALL new entry into the domain name registry market since ICANN’s inception has come from specific registry operators interested in supporting specific names that they believe would attract specific user communities.
The separation concept fails to consider how markets operate and how innovation and competition occur in a market economy. Consider the following questions:
§ Who is going to finance and build a domain name registry when they have no idea what name, if any, they are going to operate?
§ How can prospective registries construct a business plan and raise capital if they do not know whether they will be awarded something on the scale of <.com> (tens of millions of registrations) or something on the scale of <.museum> (with a few hundred registrations)?
§ How can prospective registries develop effective marketing and branding concepts if they have no interest in the name per se and no prior ties to the communities served by the TLD?
§ Why should a community of Internet users that invests time and money in getting a name established have no control over who provides them with registry service?
Separating the name from the registry would harm technical innovation. How can prospective registries design, develop and execute innovative services closely tailored to the unique needs of a named group if they are a hollow, generic registry that is passively handed character strings to service? Registries are databases. As anyone who has designed and built a database knows, the structure and operation of a database are very sensitive to the type of data one is dealing with and the unique needs of the users of the data.
The assertion that separating the name and the registry makes it easier or more efficient to protect the investment of registrants when a registry goes out of business is simply false. The only protection that users can possibly have against a failing registry is that its DNS records are stored somewhere and can be transferred to a new operator willing and able to serve them. Under a normal, market-oriented regime failing registries would sell their customer base and associated records to a surviving registry. In a competitive market many operators will be happy to purchase additional customer base. In the proposed “command economy” approach, what will happen? At best, ICANN will ask available operators which registry wants to take over the names, and if multiple operators are interested it will hold an auction for that right. This is not much different than the effect of a market, except for the interposition of an unnecessary mediator. At worst, ICANN will simply order a registry to take over and serve the names regardless of whether it wants to or it feels it has the capacity to do so – a method unlikely to produce good service. At any rate either response to failure does NOT require strict separation of the name from the registry.
The proposal reflects a popular, but increasingly erroneous belief that by stuffing millions of domain names into defined categories, ICANN will make it easier for Internet users to “find things on the Internet.” To the extent this premise was ever valid, it has become increasingly suspect as the number of names populating the space has grown and the general Internet-using population has grown more sophisticated. Internet users do not search the Internet by scanning lists of domain names. Even if a clean, intuitive “taxonomy” of TLDs could be defined, each TLD would have at minimum thousands of entries in it, and the largest ones (like .com, .net, .org, .de and co.uk) would have tens of millions of entries. No one in their right mind is going to seek content by scanning a list of registered domain names and trying to guess what services or content is stored at them. Users have a variety of far more sophisticated tools at their disposal, such as search engines, portals, and referrals.
More importantly, to the extent genuine “initial interest confusion” may exist, injured parties have recourse to both the UDRP and the courts.
Domain names are not about finding things we are looking for. Domain names are just memorable identifiers, not a directory or a search token. They are to assist us in easy communication. That is why they have to be memorable, not systematic. Most people's memory works through association, not categorizing. For this reason, to the extent ICANN has legitimate concerns protecting intellectual property or businesses, it should rely on post hoc remedies such as UDRP.
The proposed model of TLD development that seems to have captured the GNSO Committee is unduly restrictive and unimaginative. It assumes that all domain name services and applications are generic and must fit into existing business and policy models. It leaves little room for innovation. We need to question the model of ICANN-accredited-registrars for all future TLDs. There may be a 'market' for free domains. (e.g., Why can't someone (say the Red Cross) start the TLD .help and give away domain names there for free?) In any case free domains are made impossible by the current registry-registrar structure. TLD policy should also make it possible for alternative WHOIS policies to exist.
The ICANN gTLD Registrar Constituency continues to support the expansion of the namespace in a controlled and responsible manner. The Constituency supports the criteria for expansion set forth in Stuart Lynn's paper, released on March 25, 2003 (http://www.icann.org/riodejaneiro/stld-rfp-topic.htm), as a practical step forward in a discussion that has been historically beleaguered by theoretical discussion of academic improbabilities. The Registrar Constituency believes that the Board of Directors of ICANN should adopt these final criteria, without delay and further that;
(1) ICANN should, in parallel, move forward with the creation of an Accredited Registry Services Provider program which, having been based on objective criteria, facilitates competition, innovation and continued growth within this nascent sector;
(2) ICANN's Board of Directors move to implement a scalable long-term plan that institutionalizes the processes by which new generic top-level domain names are chartered and delegated and that such processes should governed by the following broad principles;
- that the ongoing expansion continue take place in a controlled and responsible manner,
- that any criteria used to evaluate charter and delegation proposals be objective and equitably applied to all proposals
- that delegants and operators be encouraged to leverage existing registry protocols and not create new ones
- that delegants be encouraged to explore and implement new business models
- that businesses be allowed to fail, but that strong redelegation practices be immediately implemented to ensure TLD continuity
- that registrar competition continue to be encouraged and remain a cornerstone of this growing market and that all accredited registrars continue to have equal and equitable access to registry operations and services
At-large Advisory Committee
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
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
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.
 see annex 2
 See annex 1
 See annex 2
 BC position on new gTLDs December 2002 page 2.
 If names are assigned to registries based on ICANN’s ad hoc discretion (which is how ICANN’s Board usually makes decisions), then the assignment process is rife with opportunities for political haggling, discrimination, collusion and insider dealing, as registries and registrars play a major role in selecting the Board. If names are assigned on the basis of competitive bidding, then the bids will reflect the value expected of specific names, and we are very close to where we would be in a regime that allowed registries to propose their own names.
 It is useful to draw a comparison between what is now referred to in telecommunications policies as “intermodal competition” (such as between competing platforms) and “intramodel competition” (where rivals share a platform). The proposal favors intramodal competition (between registrars using the shared SRS platform) but eliminates intermodal competition (among registries). From a consumer perspective, both are valuable and should be supported.