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Re: [wg-c] new TLDs
On Wed, Dec 29, 1999 at 03:51:28PM -0500, Milton Mueller wrote:
> I'm not sure that we even disagree, so let me clarify my position and see if
> we do.
Thanks for the thoughtful post.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Dave Crocker"
> > The discussion about implementing such a category (schema) of TLDs has
> > in terms of assigning administrative responsibilities to a group cognizant
> > of the charter topic. It would be their responsibility to provide daily
> > enforcement of the charter. Therefore, ICANN's size is not likely to be a
> > relevant factor.
> I don't agree. What if the group doesn't enforce its "charter"? There are
> serious monitoring and enforcement issues here, as anyone who has
> familiarity with public trustee licensing of broadcasters can attest.
There are several answers to this concern, but it's important to
remember that the concern and the answers are both fairly speculative,
and probably lack common terms of reference -- we haven't really
discussed in detail how all this might be done. But, some thoughts:
1) The "Doesn't Matter" argument: the domain name registration
"industry" is a mosquito; the fundamental cost of providing the service
is close to zero on a per domain basis, so in a cost-based competitive
model price to the end user will be very low; technology will advance
past the domain name system; the domain name fad will fade -- there are
several factors that lead one to say that the enforcement of a charter
isn't something that will matter a whole lot, and the sponsor will be
the only one that cares.
2) The "ICANN can't do it anyway" argument: ICANN have a tiny
budget, for a pseudo international regulatory agency, and simply can't
expend a lot of effort on monitoring and enforcement. Therefore, only
egregious and obvious cases of abuse will reach ICANN.
3) On the other hand, ICANN is required to maintain a regulatory effort
at some level: it will sign contracts with registries/sponsors,
those contracts will have various terms (such as support of a UDRP),
and ICANN will have to expend at least some effort in being sure that
*those* contractual obligations are adhered to.
#2 and #3 together imply that ICANN should chose sponsors with great
care, especially in the beginning. Stable, well-known international
NGOs with a long history of committment to a purpose would be a good
choice. Tribal governments would also be a good choice -- stable, long
term representative bodies with a clear mandate to represent a group.
The European Commission is another entity that would be a good as a
[Note that a ccTLD could be thought of as a special kind of sponsored
TLD, with the associated sovereign as the sponsor, but no particular
charter to enforce.]
4) The term "sponsor" refers to a role, and doesn't necessarily imply
an organization totally distinct from the registry/registry operator.
The model is quite flexible; this is an evolutionary process; I expect
that after a few sponsored TLDs were approved there would be many many
> grant of a license is given on the basis of ex ante promises; unless there
> is adequate enforcement capability and monitoring the ex post behavior may
> bear no relation to the ex ante promises. Before the sword of enforcement
> (presumably, withdrawal of the license after term expiration) can be
> wielded, the licensor must have fairly extensive knowledge about the
> behavior of the licensee. Gaining that knowledge requires resources; it is
> labor and expertise intensive. Withdrawing the right on grounds of
> non-performance of a charter is likely to be litigious.
I agree. Therefore, sponsors must be chosen with care, and the
conditions carefully drawn.
> > How is administration of an Internet system name space capable of
> > having any significant effect over any significant social or economic
> > activities, other than the social and economic activities of name space
> > administration?
> Perfectly phrased question. Here is the answer. Administration of the name
> space can have a major effect on social and economic activities when the
> delegation of a name is linked to regulatory, political, or legal criteria,
> especially in an environment of artificial scarcity.
> Example: Delegation of .bank. Under Kent's concept (and please correct me if
> I am mis-stating or misunderstanding) .bank is delegated to some legitimate,
> authoritative inernational organization that ICANN thinks is best suited to
> decide what is and is not a bank.
Not quite. ICANN doesn't really care what is or is not a bank. What it
cares about is that the proposed sponsor have some *defensible*
relationship with the proposed charter, and that the proposed sponsor
have stability of purpose and existence.
> Suppose ICANN delegates the .bank TLD to SWIFT. Now, six months later, ICANN
> is approached by a small start-up firm, let's call it "emoney, inc.", based
> in Spain, and it wants to run .banco. It has a business plan for digital cash
> and its business model calls for running a TLD.
> If ICANN behaves the way I want it to, it will insure that "emoney, inc."
> has a properly designed registry that won't affect the technical stability
> of the Internet. It will apply the same technical criteria to emoney that it
> applied to SWIFT. And if emoney, inc. meets those criteria, it will get a
Yes, I proposed such ideas 4 years ago, as did many others. One
learns, after a while :-)
IMO It is politically impossible for ICANN to behave the way you want.
Remember that it is still the USG that actually has control of the root.
I don't want to go down the rathole of discussing what the word
"technical" means in the context of ICANN, but ICANN cannot ignore a
registry's business plan, explicit or implicit. Suppose that business
plan also says "will form a haven for money launderers" (or words to
USG still has control of the root zone, so fundamentally,
as I see it, we have two choices: let ICANN develop a public process
for approving TLDs (which means that the "emoney" business plan will be
debated in public fora), or let the USG apply its own public processes.
> ICANN will not even ask itself whether emoney is a "legitimate,
> authoritative" organization capable of deciding who is able to determine
> what is a bank and what is not.
ICANN won't as itself that, because ICANN is not interested in defining
what a bank is. Instead, ICANN will put emoney's proposal up for public
comment and debate, and base it's decision at least partially on the
results of that debate.
> Now let me see if I understand what Kent is saying. As I understand it, Kent
> believes that when approached by emoney, inc., ICANN will say, "sorry, guys,
> we've already delegated a banking TLD. It's run by SWIFT. If SWIFT thinks
> you're a bank, register in there. We only give names to organizations that
> already have some established, institutionalized relationship to the name."
No, that is not what I am saying at all. emoney's proposal would be
evaluated on it's merits -- but that evaluation involves public debate of
the proposal. The definition of "bank" doesn't even enter into the
> At any rate, it should be obvious that such an approach to delegation
> (whether that represents your position or not)would give ICANN's name
> delegation decisions significant influence over social and economic
It isn't obvious to me, even in the extreme strawman you present. I
don't think that the assignment of domain names at the present time has
any significant influence over social and economic activities -- by and
large, entities that need domain names get usable domain names.
Marketing plans may go awry here and there, particular individuals may
not get to express their individual contempt for microsoft etc, but this
is not a "significant" social or economic effect. "Significant" is
subjective, of course, but I find it hard to determine how changing
"yahoo" to "yipee" would have been "significant".
> ICANN would become a kind of certification authority for
No -- a licensing authority for TLDs and their operators, run through
It strikes me as odd that great concern is expressed that ICANN run in
an open and transparent way, but that when it comes to perhaps ICANN's
single most important job -- deciding what TLDs to insert in the root
and why -- all of a sudden that is to be left completely to private,
Kent Crispin "Do good, and you'll be
email@example.com lonesome." -- Mark Twain