Domainmondo: ICANN Process for New gTLDs Dysfunctional – from the beginning

“When a decision is taken about a possible new top-level domain, ICANN’s job is to work out, in a transparent and accountable manner, whether it is really in the best interest of the world as a whole, not just of those launching the new domain.” — Tim Berners-Lee

Jean Guillon writing in CircleID asks: “What if France Had Applied for a .WINE New gTLD? ….Well… the situation would be the exact same — the applicant would be in front of three other .WINE applicants with this exact same question: how do I win the auction?… “Standard applications”, “Community applications” and “Geographic applications” were created by ICANN to offer a range of procedures for applicants to decide whether “they” considered if their application was sensitive or not. ICANN has no “conseil des sages” or CFT procedure upfront to do a first check up in the new gTLD application process. So what now?”

The whole ICANN process for new gTLDs was dysfunctional from the beginning. There should have been no fees such as the $185,000 per application fee, and no auctions. There should have been a process to receive nominations for new generic top-level domains. Anyone could submit a nomination for new gTLD name extension: .web, .app, etc., with the nominating form indicating the “public interest” rationale and need for the new gTLD extension. A nominating committee to review and process the nominations would be composed of members of the global internet community, including but not limited to, domain name registrants, commercial, civil society, and government representatives (with access to experts in naming protocols, marketing, trademarks, economics, technical and other matters). The nominating committee would specifically exclude from membership registry representatives and anyone else who intended to apply to become a registry of any new gTLD or provide services to current or new gTLDs registry operators. The nominating committee would evaluate the nominations, to determine which ones ranked highest in terms of both rationale and need, in the public interest, perhaps even conducting polls for general world opinion and consensus as to preferences among the nominated new gTLDs. From that process, the nominating committee would determine and publish ranked lists of proposed new gTLDs, which would be published to the global multistakeholder community for comment, for a period of not less than thirty days. Once the comment period closed, the ranked lists and comments would be submitted to the ICANN Board (or its designee) for final determination of which new gTLDs would be added to the global domain name system.

Then, and only then, the process of soliciting and selecting the registry operator for each new gTLD would begin. That process would end with the selected registry operator executing its contract with ICANN — ICANN acting on behalf of the global internet community. The registry operator contracts would include terms requiring operation of each new gTLD registry in the public interest for a term of years, at the lowest possible cost in annual domain name registration fees, all of which would be strictly regulated by ICANN. Financial soundness of each registry operator applicant would be one, but only one, of many criteria by which the ICANN Board or its designee would make the final registry operator selections. No fees would be paid to ICANN by the selected or applicant registry operators. ICANN would receive only the fee paid upon registration/transfer of each domain name — ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, charges a mandatory yearly fee of $0.18 for each year of domain registration per domain name. (Registry operators would be required to pay annual assessments for operation of the internet root zone and other technical IANA functions, directly to IANA, a separate entity.)

Every current and new gTLD should be considered to be the “property” of the global internet community, regulated by ICANN, and operated by each registry, in the “public interest.” ICANN was never originally intended to be an ATM or “cash machine” — “put in your $185,000 and we will issue you your new gTLD which you can do with pretty much as you like” nor an issuer of new gTLDs to the highest bidder — Glossary | ICANN New gTLDs: “Auction — A method for allocating property or goods to the highest bidder.” Nor were generic top-level domains ever originally intended to be licenses to make profits at the expense of the public interest — damaging trademarks, businesses, and others in the process.

But somewhere along the line, ICANN stopped listening to people like Esther Dyson and Tim Berners-Lee, and decided to sell out the public interest for private gain and profit. In the process, ICANN has irreparably damaged the internet and its domain name system for which it was supposed to be a protector and steward.

John Poole
Domain Mondo
July 4, 2014

Article First published by Domain Mondo

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