Phil Lodico ⬥ 21 May

ICANN claims that the roll out of new TLDs is designed to encourage healthy competition in the domain name space, but the organization has repeatedly failed to provide evidence that substantiates these claims. Furthermore, ICANN has not put forth any evidence to suggest that the new TLDs will be even somewhat beneficial to the wide Internet community. I regularly work on these issues and have read countless documents and letters pertaining to the TLD launch.  There are two documents from a few months back that are of particular interest. The first is a letter from the Department of Commerce to Peter Dengate-Thrush, the chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. The second is a letter from the Department of Justice to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Both letters provide a laundry list of areas where ICANN needs improvement, better foresight, and an overall reality check.

The DOC’s letter states that while they acknowledge “the effort and hard work involved in producing the documents currently out for comment, it is unclear that the threshold question of whether the potential consumer benefits outweigh the potential costs has been adequately addressed and determined.” One of their recommendations is that ICANN must “ensure that the introduction of a potentially large number of gTLDs, including internationalized top level domains, will not jeopardize the stability and security of DNS.” Given the rampant cybersquatting that occurs among the current TLDs, and the amount on .com alone, I don’t know how ICANN will justify introducing even more TLDs without first addressing the existing problems.

Then there’s the issue of competition. The letter from the DOJ points out that the overwhelming popularity of .com is far too valuable to ever actually be constrained by new TLDs. Even in the current system, most domain owners register other TLDs in order to augment their Internet presence, not as a substitute for a .com name. Both letters implore ICANN to reevaluate the demand for new gTLDs and to better account for the interests of consumers. The brand owners and individuals who register domain names are, in this case, the consumer. Yet ICANN seems to be moving full steam ahead toward this initiative. If ICANN is not listening to consumers or to the government that acts as its advisor, who is ICANN actually listening to? With the DOC joint project agreement scheduled to terminate this September, what is the likelihood that ICANN will be listening to anyone in the future?

Tags: Board of Directors, brand owners, cybersquatting, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, DNS, DOC, domain names, gTLDs, ICANN, internet community, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, NTIA, Peter Dengate-Thrush, TLDs

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