ICANN GNSO Council gTLDS committee - new gTLDs, conclusions v5
Version 4 published 9 May 2003
Updated 13 May 2003: gTLD Registries Statement added
Version 5 published 21 May 2003
Report Contents: (3 pages)
Annexes: (16 pages)
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 fundamental question was the interpretation of the question asked. 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 a taxonomy and a bottom-up, demand-driven system. Many constituencies interpreted "structured" more widely meaning within a framework of objectives.
Indeed all participants had in some measure or other a vision of how the gTLD namespace should look. 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. Some participants also supported the ideas aired in the Lynn paper of value added and differentiation.
There should be a consistent and common set of safeguards for consumers and users in the introduction of new names.*
(*meaning in this paper, new generic Top-Level Domain Names gTLDs).
These recommendations will require integration with work elsewhere on IDNs.
* LDH - Letters-Digits-Hyphen is the more correct description of what is commonly called ASCII when related to domain names. LDH comprises 26 Latin letters without diacritical marks, 10 Arabic digits and the hyphen. LDH is a subset of ASCII.
* 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.
October 2002, the ICANN CEO's action plan on gTLDs made the recommendation
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
|1||Differentiation||a gTLD must be clearly differentiated from other gTLDs|
|2||Certainty||a gTLD must give the user confidence that it stands for what it purports to stand for|
|3||Honesty||a gTLD must avoid increasing opportunities for bad faith entities who wish to defraud users|
|4||Competition||a gTLD must create value-added competition|
|5||Diversity||a gTLD must serve commercial or non-commercial users|
|6||Meaning||a gTLD must have meaning to its relevant population of users|
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.
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.
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.
| . Policy |
|Restricted|| .museum |
| .name |
|Unrestricted||not possible|| .com |
.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following points reflect the agreed Constituency approach towards the introduction of new gTLDs
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:
The claimed benefits of this approach do not exist:
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:
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:
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;
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."
The Board should offer to existing registries similar applicable terms and conditions that are offered to the new registries.
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.
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 gTLDs.
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.
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 http://r.tucows.com/archives/2003/03/13/new_gtlds_part_ii.html
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," http://dcc.syr.edu/miscarticles/NewTLDs-MM-LM.pdf
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.
||© GNSO Council