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Some Opening Comments from Richard Henderson
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  • To: <gtld-plan-comments@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Some Opening Comments from Richard Henderson
  • From: "Richard Henderson" <richardhenderson@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 23:33:54 -0000

Responses to Stuart Lynn’s Proposals for New TLDs

I will probably submit a more systematic paper, but these are a few opening comments.

Stuart Lynn: The underlying premise of this report is that most of the vexing problems over the course of the new gTLD process have arisen in connection with the unsponsored TLDs, not with the sponsored TLDs. This is not surprising, and does not reflect negatively on the selected operators of those new unsponsored TLDs.

Richard Henderson: I find it extraordinary that Stuart Lynn seems to be exonerating the Registries responsible for the unsponsored New TLDs. The conduct of Afilias, its Board, and its executives seems indefensible to many people, and their execution of the roll-out was described by their own resigning Board member (Robert Connelly) as “an abomination”. Coupled with breaches of the rules and contracts by Board members of Afilias and its executives (breaches they have never attempted to deny), this sounds like a Lynn whitewash. I’ll remind you that Dan Halloran has now been running scared of addressing these charges for over 220 days.

Stuart Lynn: There are many other significant, unanswered questions regarding new unsponsored TLDs – questions whose answers should, in my view, await completion of the full-scale evaluation recommended by the NTEPPTF (see Part II of this overall Action Plan for new gTLDs). In any event, there appears to be little demand right now for new unsponsored TLDs  – at least, no one is banging at my door. Some of the enthusiasm of a couple of years ago has perhaps been tempered by the realities of the marketplace.

Richard Henderson: One of the key questions must be, how do you justify any further unsponsored New TLDs (and Stuart Lynn advocates using the same Registry Agreements and rules) when (a) there has been no evaluation process (b) no release of the Registries’ Evaluation Reports (c) clearly-publicised fiascos and harm to consumers. Why is the consumer any less likely to be harmed again, if they just re-run the process? So on the question of unsponsored New TLDs I would say that it would be unacceptable simply to pre-empt the findings of an evaluation process, or re-run the Agreements which have already failed in a number of serious ways in the first round of New TLDs. At the very least, the Agreements need to be significantly re-written.

Stuart Lynn: Or should the name space be rationalized or "taxonomized", as it were, with ICANN defining the TLD strings in some comprehensive fashion, and requesting bids for the various individual components of this "taxonomized" space?

Richard Henderson: I challenge the assumption that ICANN is the right entity to “define” the TLD strings and create an overall taxonomy for the Internet of the whole world. I should have said that the narrow technical mission of ICANN in NO WAY extends to decisions over defining the fundamental naming structure of the world’s internet. To assume it does, suggests that USG through ICANN owns the Internet everywhere, and I believe an entirely independent body or even a Commission of the United Nations should be involved in determining the structure and taxonomy of the Internet for the future. If ICANN is about technical oversight, what is it doing, suggesting it should take the decisions for such fundamental policy? I’m not even assuming that a taxonomy is the right approach (though it needs to be considered) but I’m saying that crucial decisions about the shape and structure of the Internet should not be left to a discredited California quango, which so many people suspect is in league with a clique of wealthy vested interests : these are decisions which need to take into account the needs and interests of the whole world, all its countries, and a much wider range of relevant parties.

Stuart Lynn: There were differing views as to how much involvement ICANN should have in constraining new registries through its legal framework. Some felt that ICANN should have minimal involvement, adopting a laissez-faire attitude towards the marketplace. Others felt that more oversight was needed to create a level playing field for competition to work fairly and effectively, or to protect consumers.

Richard Henderson: Some of the fiascos and harm to consumers that were evidenced and documented in the Afilias roll-out (and to a lesser extent in .biz) were attributable EXACTLY to the flimsy Registry and Registrar agreements, and ICANN’s consciously laissez-faire policy of almost zero policing. It is a significant FACT that many of the frauds and iniquities that occurred should have been PRE-EMPTED by (a) tighter, more intelligent Agreements (b) enforcement of the Agreements (c) pro-active measures by ICANN to protect and defend the integrity of the processes and actively address the serious concerns of consumers. As many of you know, ICANN pursued a policy of vagueness, laissez-faire let-it-run, non-responsiveness (hello Dan Halloran!), and abjectly failed to put consumers first. Their friends in the Registry and Registrar industry were protected and allowed to get away with mayhem. Any suggestion that further NewTLDs can be envisaged, using the same Registry Agreements, is unacceptable. ICANN should (if only in its own self-interest) be aware of the very serious damage done to its own credibility by the pandemonium that accompanied the .info and .biz releases. ICANN cannot afford to suffer further PR disasters or its demise may become terminal.

Further more structured comments probably to follow.

Richard Henderson

(Richard Henderson is a Panel Member of IcannatLarge.org, but these are personal comments)


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