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Re: [wg-c] IMPORTANT: DRAFT WG-C REPORT
This is a balanced and objective summary of the results of our work so far. It sets a
standard in that regard that I hope will be emulated by other ICANN working groups.
> Report (Part One) of
> Working Group C of the Domain Name Supporting Organization, Internet
> Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
> This document is Part One of the Report of Working Group C. It sets out
> the rough consensus of the group regarding whether there should be new
> generic top-level domains (gTLDs), and if so, how quickly they should be
> added to the root as an initial matter. Part Two of the Report, which will
> follow, will address other issues relating to the addition of new gTLDs.
> Introduction and summary
> Working Group C has reached rough consensus on two issues. The first is
> that ICANN should add new gTLDs to the root. The second is that ICANN
> should begin the deployment of new gTLDs with an initial rollout of six to
> ten new gTLDs, followed by an evaluation period. This report will address
> each of these issues separately. For each of the issues, it will summarize
> the discussions within the working group, arguments pro and con, and
> comments received from the public.
> Procedural and outreach history
> The Names Council approved the charter of Working Group C on June 25,
> 1999, and named Javier Sola as its chair. On July 29, the working group
> members elected Jonathan Weinberg co-chair. The working group currently
> has more than 140 members, not all of whom are active. It includes
> extensive representation from each of the constituencies. (There is one
> partial exception: For most of the life of the working group, no NSI
> representative participated. When WG-C's co-chair solicited greater
> participation from the Registry constituency, Don Telage explained that NSI
> had chosen not to involve itself in the WG-C process. That
> representational gap has been filled now that Tony Rutkowski — an active
> WG-C member from the start — has joined NSI in a senior policymaking
> On October 23, 1999, the Working Group released its Interim Report. That
> report described the issues on which the Working Group had reached rough
> consensus to date. It also included seven "position papers," setting out
> alternative scenarios for the introduction of new gTLDs. On November 23,
> 1999, the Names Council formally requested public comment on the Interim
> Report. This call for comments was publicized on a variety of mailing
> lists maintained by the DNSO, including ga-announce, ga, and liaison7c
> (which includes the constituency secretariats). In addition, WG-C's
> co-chair spoke at the meetings of most of the constituencies at the Los
> Angeles ICANN meeting, and urged constituency members to file comments.
> Nearly 300 comments were filed in response to the interim report. They
> included responses from leading members of all of the constituencies but
> two — the record does not include comments from the ccTLD or Registry
> constituencies (although ccTLD members and Mr. Rutkowski participated in
> the discussions that led to the Interim Report, and WG-C's co-chair
> expressly solicited the comments of both of those groups).
> Issue One — Should There Be New gTLDs?
> Discussions within the working group
> The working group quickly -- by mid-August, 1999 -- reached consensus that
> there should be new global top-level domains. There was very little
> dissent from this position.
> Arguments supporting the consensus position
> Expanding the number of TLDs will increase consumer choice, and create
> opportunities for entities that have been shut out under the current name
> structure. Today, .com stands astride the name space: it has more
> registrations than all other top-level domain names combined, and is ten
> times the size of the largest ccTLD. Yet it has become nearly impossible
> to register a new simple domain name there: Almost a year ago, in April
> 1999, a survey found that of 25,500 standard English-language dictionary
> words, only 1,760 were free in the .com domain. Millions of additional
> names have been registered in .com since then.
> This situation is undesirable. It requires companies to register
> increasingly unwieldy domain names for themselves, and is inflating the
> value of the secondary (speculators') market in .com domain names.
> Existing second-level domain names under the dot com TLD routinely change
> hands for enormously inflated prices. These are legitimate trades of
> ordinary, untrademarked words; their high prices reflect the artificial
> scarcity of common names in existing gTLDs, and the premium on .com names
> in particular.
> Companies that currently have a domain name in the form of
> <www.companyname.com> have an extremely important marketing and
> name-recognition tool. They have an advantage over all other companies
> that do not have addresses in that form, because the companyname.com firms
> are the ones that consumers, surfing the Net, will be able to find most
> easily. If the name space is expanded, companies will be able to get
> easy-to-remember domain names more easily, and the entry barriers to
> successful participation in electronic commerce will be lowered. Addition
> of new gTLDs will allow different companies to have the same second-level
> domain name in different TLDs. Those businesses will have to compete based
> on price, quality and service, rather than on the happenstance of which
> company locked up the most desirable domain name first.
> Similarly, addition of new gTLDs could enlarge noncommercial name space,
> and allow the creation of top-level domains designed to serve noncommercial
> goals. One proposal made in WG-C, widely applauded in the public comments,
> advocated the creation of a new top-level domain to be operated for the
> benefit of North American indigenous peoples. Other examples are easy to
> In response to the unsatisfied demand for new gTLD names, several ccTLD
> registries, including .nu, .cc, and .to, have transformed themselves into
> gTLDs, marketing their names globally as alternatives to .com, .net and
> .org. This is undesirable from the perspective of protecting trademark
> rights, since no mechanisms are in place to ensure that these TLDs enact
> the same trademark-protective procedures (such as the UDRP) now in place in
> the gTLDs. The transformation of ccTLDs into globally marketed commercial
> gTLDs deprives the local Internet community of the benefits of a ccTLD more
> closely oriented to serving that community. To the extent that ICANN
> wishes to deploy new gTLDs subject to community-determined policy
> guidelines, finally, the growth of ccTLDs in response to pent-up demand for
> TLDs frustrates that goal.
> Creation of new generic top-level domains can be beneficial in other ways.
> One proposal before WG-C, with significant support, urges the creation of
> multiple registries, each capable of managing registrations for multiple
> TLDs, so as to eliminate the single point of failure for the registration
> process. Under this view, multiple new gTLDs are necessary to support the
> multiple registries needed for stability.
> Adding new gTLDs to the root, finally, is an important part of ICANN's
> mandate. ICANN was created because the institutions that preceded it were
> unable to resolve the intense political and economic conflicts created by
> demand for new top-level domain names. The U.S. Department of Commerce's
> White Paper saw the establishment of policy "for determining the
> circumstances under which new TLDs are added to the root system" as one of
> ICANN's fundamental goals.
> Arguments opposing the consensus position
> Three arguments were made, or suggested, in WG-C that cut against the
> addition of new gTLDs. The first relates to trademark policing concerns:
> Expansion of the domain space will create additional opportunities for the
> registration of domain names that are confusingly similar to existing
> trademarks. The relationship between domain names and trademark rights
> presents an important and difficult issue, and is appropriately addressed
> by registry data maintenance requirements, dispute resolution mechanisms
> such as the UDRP, and any other device that ICANN may choose to adopt.
> Trademark owners' concerns in this regard are important ones, and not to be
> overlooked. The argument that ICANN should impose substantial delays on
> the initial deployment of new gTLDs in the interest of adopting or
> perfecting such mechanisms, however, did not win much support within the
> working group except among Intellectual Property constituency members.
> Second, some working group members suggested that an increase in the
> number of top- level domains could confuse consumers, because it would be
> harder for consumers to keep in mind and remember a larger set of top-level
> domains. Notwithstanding requests, though, no working group member offered
> studies or other evidence backing up this view.
> Finally, some working group members suggested that the perceived need for
> new gTLDs was illusory. For the reasons described above, it is the sense
> of the working group that that view is incorrect.
> Public comments
> The comments received by the working group fell into several categories.
> A few commenters questioned whether new gTLDs were indeed needed: this
> group included Bell Atlantic, Marilyn Cade and John Lewis (writing on
> behalf of some members of the Business & Commercial constituency).
> Some commenters took no position on whether new gTLDs should be added.
> Rather, they focused their comments on the position that deployment should
> be delayed until after implementation of the uniform dispute resolution
> procedure, improved domain name registration procedures, and protection for
> so-called famous marks. These commenters included, among others, Jonathan
> Cohen, Dr. Victoria Carrington, AOL, British Telecom, Disney, INTA,
> Nintendo of America and Time Warner. Comments noting the need for caution
> in deploying new gTLDs, but not explicitly referencing famous-marks
> protection, were filed by the Software and Information Industry Association
> (which supports adding new gTLDs, but only after the creation of a robust,
> responsive whois system), John Lewis (writing on behalf of some members of
> the Business and Commercial constituency), and Steve Metalitz.
> A third set of comments urged the addition of new gTLDs without further
> delay. These commenters included, among others, Hiro Hotta (emphasizing
> that discussion of famous-mark protection should not delay the gTLD
> rollout), Kathryn Kleiman, Michael Schneider, Computer Professionals for
> Social Responsibility, Melbourne IT, AXISNET (Peruvian Association of Users
> and ISPs), the United States Small Business Administration's Office of
> Advocacy, Register.com, InterWorking Labs, Tucows.com, InterAccess Company
> and PSI-Japan. Raul Echeberria filed comments urging that the
> establishment of new gTLDs was important and positive, but that rules
> should be devised to avoid massive speculative purchases of domains in the
> new TLDs, or trademark holders simply duplicating their existing domains.
> A fourth, and by far the largest, set of comments supported the creation
> of a specific proposed new domain: .NAA, proposed as a new gTLD to be run
> for the benefit of North American indigenous peoples.
> Issue Two — What Should be the Nature of the Initial Rollout?
> Discussions within the working group
> In September 1999, the WG-C co-chairs made the determination that the
> working group had reached rough consensus supporting a compromise proposal
> that the initial deployment of new gTLDs should include six to ten new
> gTLDs, followed by an evaluation period. Because there had been no formal
> consensus call, though, the working group held a vote in December 1999 to
> reaffirm that consensus. Following the lead of Working Group B, the
> working group determined in advance that a two-thirds margin would
> constitute adequate evidence of rough consensus. The vote reaffirmed the
> compromise position as the rough consensus of the working group, by a
> margin of 44 to 20. (A substantial number of working group members did not
> cast votes. In addition, some working group members, having been solicited
> to vote, sent messages to the list explaining that they were declining to
> take a position at that time, and listed themselves as consequently
> abstaining. Neither the non-voters nor the abstainers were counted in
> figuring the two-thirds majority.)
> Members of the working group had expressed sharply varying positions on
> the nature of the initial rollout. Some working group members urged that
> ICANN should immediately announce its intention to authorize hundreds of
> new gTLDs over the course of the next few years. While ICANN might
> interrupt that process if it observed serious problems with the rollout,
> the presumption would be in favor of deployment to the limits of the
> technically feasible and operationally stable. If ICANN simply deployed a
> small number of new gTLDs with no commitment to add more, they argued, the
> public would have to make registration decisions based on the possibility
> that the small number of new gTLDs would be the only options. This would
> give the new registries oligopoly power and the ability to earn
> greater-than-competitive profits; it would encourage pre-emptive and
> speculative registrations based on the possibility of continued artificial
> scarcity. By contrast, they urged, an ICANN decision to deploy a large
> number of gTLDs would enable competition and a level playing field: If
> ICANN announced an intention to add hundreds of new gTLDs over a three-year
> period, no new registry could exercise market power based on the prospect
> of a continued artificial scarcity of names.
> Other working group members took the opposite approach. New gTLDs, they
> urged, could seriously aggravate the problems facing trademark
> rightsholders in the existing domain name space. Accordingly, they urged,
> new gTLDs should be introduced only slowly and in a controlled manner, and
> only after effective trademark protection mechanisms had been implemented
> and shown to be effective.
> A third set of working group members took still another approach. In the
> long term, they stated, it would be desirable for ICANN to allow the
> deployment of new gTLDs to the limits of the technically feasible and
> operationally stable. As a short-term matter, however, the immediate
> deployment of hundreds of new TLDs would not be prudent. The operationally
> safer course, rather, should be to deploy a smaller number, and to follow
> that deployment with an evaluation period during which the Internet
> community could see what lessons were to be learned from the initial
> deployment. ICANN would go on to deploy additional TLDs if no serious
> problems arose in the initial rollout. The initial deployment would be a
> testbed, in the sense that ICANN's decisions regarding the rollout of
> subsequent gTLDs would rest on that initial experience.
> The proposal that ICANN start by deploying six to ten new TLDs, followed
> by an evaluation period, was crafted as a compromise position to bridge the
> gap separating the three groups, and to enable a rough consensus to form in
> the middle ground.
> Arguments supporting the consensus position
> The consensus position has the advantage of being a compromise proposal
> supported by a wide range of working group members. In a bottom-up,
> consensus-driven organization, broad agreement on a policy path is valuable
> for its own sake. The sense of the bulk of the working group is that this
> proposal strikes an appropriate balance between aggressiveness and prudence
> in remedying the shortage of domain names.
> Arguments opposing the consensus position
> Three arguments were made in the working group against the proposal. The
> first was that the contemplated initial deployment was too large; rather,
> some WG members urged, it would be appropriate, following the
> implementation of effective intellectual property protections, for ICANN to
> roll out no more than two or three new gTLDs. Most WG members felt,
> however, that this figure was smaller than caution dictated, and that such
> a modest deployment would not give ICANN the information that it would need
> to make sensible later decisions.
> The second argument was that the contemplated initial deployment was too
> small: that, as detailed above, a deployment of only six to ten, without an
> upfront commitment to roll out many more, will be a half-measure that would
> grant oligopoly power to the lucky registries selected for the initial
> rollout. This argument has considerable force. Most of the working group
> members felt, however, that an initial commitment to many more than six to
> ten would not be operationally sound. Until we see the consequences for
> the domain name space of adding new gTLDs, there are advantages to a more
> circumspect path.
> The final objection raised was that the consensus agreement answered the
> wrong question: The working group, said some, should not be addressing the
> number of new gTLDs at all before resolving such issues as whether the new
> top-level domains should be general-purpose (like .com), special-purpose,
> or some combination of the two. The working group is currently addressing
> these issues (they will be discussed in Part Two of the WG's Report), and
> certainly it would not have been inappropriate for it to have sought to
> reach conclusions on those matters before discussing Issue Two. But most
> members of the working group concluded that the path of resolving the
> nature of the initial deployment first was just as valid.
> Public comments
> As with Issue One, public comment on this issue was divided. Bell
> Atlantic and Marilyn Cade supported the introduction of just a single new
> gTLD at the outset. John Lewis, on behalf of some members of the Business
> & Commercial constituency, suggested the introduction of a very small
> number; British Telecom and Time Warner urged the initial rollout of only a
> few. Other commenters, including Jonathan Cohen, Dr. Victoria Carrington,
> AOL, Disney and Nintendo of America, generally endorsed the statement that
> the introduction of new gTLDs should be slow and controlled, and should
> incorporate an evaluation period.
> By contrast, Hiro Hotta, Kathryn Kleiman, Michael Schneider, Computer
> Professionals for Social Responsibility, AXISNET, InterWorking Labs,
> Tucows.com and InterAccess Company supported the position that ICANN
> should, at the outset, announce a schedule for introducing hundreds of new
> TLDs. The Office of Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration concluded
> that ICANN should start with a limited introduction of new TLDs followed by
> an evaluation period, but that ICANN should announce in advance that it
> would continue with a steady introduction of additional TLDs so long as
> pre-announced technical criteria were met. Raul Echeberria, by contrast,
> emphasized that ICANN should evaluate the operation and market acceptance
> of the TLDs added in the initial rollout before creating or announcing
> more. Melbourne IT, PSI-Japan and Register.com all supported the
> compromise position of an initial rollout of six to ten new gTLDs followed
> by an evaluation period.
> A detailed summary of the public comments on Issues One and Two is
> available at <http://www.dnso.org/wgroups/wg-c/Arc01/msg00490.html>.