ICANN ICANN Email List Archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Minds + Machines comments on ICANN's Economic Study

  • To: 4gtld-guide@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Minds + Machines comments on ICANN's Economic Study
  • From: Antony Van Couvering <avc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 16:22:06 -0700


Following are the comments of Minds + Machines on the economic report dated 
June 2010, entitled “An Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of 
Generic Top-Level Domain Names,” by Michael L. Katz, Gregory L. Rosston, and 
Theresa Sullivan.  Also attached as a PDF.

Economists aren’t very good at predicting things, as any one with money in the 
stock market can attest.  The most powerful economist in the United States, the 
Chairman of the Federal Reserve, is on record predicting a continuing climb in 
housing prices – just prior to their precipitous decline.  And yet their 
crystal balls still hold some allure for those who need to present “evidence” 
about the future.   Such is the case with ICANN and the new gTLD program.  

The latest economic report to be presented to ICANN uses a great number of 
pages to say very little.   It tells us that gTLDs may be useful, or they may 
be harmful – it depends.   We are told that cybersquatting may increase, or not 
– it depends.  We learn that registries might make money, or they might not – 
it depends.   To our astonishment, we learn that sometimes things are good for 
some people, but bad for others.  

The entire report could have consisted of this one paragraph, which contains 
the entire wisdom of its contents:

“Because business model innovations are difficult to predict, experience with 
the development of gTLDs that serve specific communities is limited, and the 
community has no experience with IDNs at the TLD level, it is difficult to 
describe the expected effects of new gTLDs with precision.”

In other words:  “It depends.” 

ICANN has produced many economic reports.   Each time, someone objects to the 
results, and insists ICANN do another one, hoping for a different result.  This 
is not as ridiculous as it might first appear, because two different sets of 
economists are entirely capable of coming up with wildly disparate results.  In 
this case, the economic study is mandated by the Affirmation of Commitments.   
So ICANN is obliged to do it, which makes it mandatory, if no less fatuous.

The authors were handed an impossible task:  predict what going to happen, in 
both an economic and social dimension, if we do something that has never been 
done before.   With consummate professionalism, however, they were equal to the 
task, employing two effective strategies.  First, they used the bulk of the 
report to review the history of the gTLD program, other surveys and opinions, 
and different theoretical frameworks for quantifying economic predictions.   
Second, they predicted various possible risks and benefits, without quantifying 
any of them – the words “may” and “might” appear 128 times, or roughly twice 
per page. 

By saying that new gTLDs might be good, or might be bad, or possibly even a mix 
of the two, the authors gave both proponents and opponents something to cheer 
about, which has muted opposition to the report itself and has instead resulted 
in the two sides brandishing excerpts from the report, each for its own 
benefit.  But the professionalism of the authors shows through: their most 
important recommendation is that the new gTLDs will provide data for – wait for 
 it – another study.

I commend the authors for taking money from ICANN, and for setting themselves 
up for more work later, and for producing a document that looks entirely 
professional, while saying nothing more than “it depends.”  They were given an 
dubious task, and performed it to the hilt.

Should observers of ICANN lend any credence t to this study?  If your goal is 
to advocate a position without any empirical evidence, it is a splendid tool.  
If your goal is to understand what the new gTLD program will produce, it will, 
if printed out and bound, make a splendid paperweight. 

In other words, it depends…


Attachment: Minds+Machines comments on ICANN's economic study.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Cookies Policy