ACT Comments regarding New gTLD Board Committee Consideration of GAC Safeguard Advice
New gTLD Board Committee: The Board New gTLD Committee is seeking comments on the advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee in the Beijing GAC Communiqué. I submit the following comments on behalf of the Association for Competitive Technology ("ACT") regarding the proposed Safeguards for new gTLDs. Background ACT was founded in 1998 by independent software developers concerned about how the interactions between major companies and policy makers affected small and medium sized developers. ACT is listed on the European Union Transparency Register and its DC office is a registered 501(c)(6) non-profit organization in the United States. Specifically, the institutional purpose of ACT, as detailed in its U.S. charter documents, is directly related to the benefit of the application developer community because its purpose is to "enhance public understanding of the high quality of its members' products and services and its members' commitment to innovation and technological advancement." ACT's membership includes more than 5,000 small and mid-size mobile application "app" developers and information technology firms. ACT is an international group of leading members of the Industry. In addition to its small business membership, ACT includes Sponsors such as Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, eBay, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, VeriSign, and Verizon. Benefit of Safeguards As a representative of the app community, we appreciate the Safeguards suggested by GAC to protect the .APP gTLD. "App" is a generic term used throughout a wide industry. "The term 'app' is associated with a wide variety of applications, including mobile applications, web- and browser-based applications, cloud hosted applications and even desktop applications." It is important that registry access should serve a public interest goal for gTLD strings representing a generic term which defines an entire industry. A responsibly-run gTLD has the potential to help a growing industry like the app industry. However, allowing one participant in an industry to run the .APP gTLD in an anti-competitive and monopolist manner serves only to stifle the great success mobile app developers have built. While mobile applications have been in existence for quite some time, apps leapt into prominence when the Apple App Store was opened in conjunction with the launch of the iPhone in 2008. Since then, apps have been developed and sold all over the world and have a significant impact on the international economy. There are currently thousands of developers all over the world and even more in the app support industry. According to Gartner, Inc., global revenue from traditional app stores is expected to rise to $25 billion this year, an increase of 62%. And apps now being using in places unthought-of just a few years ago, like televisions and cars. It is vital to take special care when assigning strings representing generic terms like .APP because those terms have the opportunity to artificially define an entire industry. Generic terms logically lead consumers to assume that the gTLD represents the industry as a whole. "These strings are likely to invoke a level of implied trust from consumers, and carry higher levels of risk associated with consumer harm." For example, within the United States, it is assumed that any higher education body will have an address which includes .EDU. Many services which cater to university and graduate students require confirmation of student status with an .EDU email address. The .EDU string, a generic term, is accepted by the public as a certification of educational status. With the .APP gTLD, it would natural for consumers to assume that all "licensed" developers possess an .APP address. If a group or class of developers is blocked from uses of the .APP gTLD, that results in manufactured limitations on the industry. For example, what if the .APP gTLD had existed five years ago and those running the exclusive access to the gTLD determined that a developer building apps for automobiles did not satisfy eligibility requirements. A large area of opportunity for app developers could be stifled because the registrant did not allow for innovation. Mobile app developers rely on the internet; it is the place where their businesses exist. If an entity is allowed to operate a string representing a generic term in a manner which cuts out groups of developers, it will effectively cut them out of market entirely. The app community continues to innovate quickly and in many different directions. What it means to be an app developer has evolved tremendously over the past ten years and it has given great benefit to the public at large. Apps are now a vital part of business, communication, education, health care, and entertainment. The public interest goal of allowing for continued growth should be taken into serious consideration for strings representing generic terms, like .APP. Specific Application Concerns Even where applications for the .APP gTLD purport to serve the app industry, we urge ICANN to take GAC's advice into consideration. As the representative from the app developer community, the application for the .APP gTLD submitted by Google is of particular concern and illustrates the importance of the GAC advice. Charleston Road Registry Inc., an American company wholly owned by Google, Inc. (hereafter "Google") applied to run the .APP gTLD as a closed registry with Google as the sole registrar and registrant. On April 6, 2013, Google submitted to the New gTLD Program a modified application for the .APP gTLD. In the modified application, Google proposes to run the .APP gTLD as "domain space for application developers." The modified application asserts that Google "plans to develop and publish eligibility criteria for all registrants in the proposed gTLD and will work with its registrars to execute the eligibility verification process. This process will imbue additional meaning to all second-level domains in the gTLD and enhance the gTLD's reputation by establishing an authoritative community of content providers." Google's amended application would allow Google to operate the gTLD in a manner not "consistent with general principles of openness and non-discrimination," since allowing Google to create an eligibility verification process would allow Google to artificially define the app market. While Google's application asserts that it will allow use of the gTLD by app developers from across all types of applications, it has put forward no indication how such verification process would work or how it would allow for innovation in the app industry. GAC advises that "[t]he registry operator should administer access in these kinds of registries in a transparent way that does not give an undue preference to any registrars or registrants, including itself, and shall not subject registrars or registrants to an undue disadvantage." However, it would be easy for Google to use its control over the .APP gTLD to further its business interest at the expense of app developers. Even if developers were allowed access to the .APP gTLD, use could come with requirements regarding advertising and use of Google services adverse to developers' business models. Further, while individual developers could be allowed to register the domain name related to their businesses, Google could control the generic domain names, such as education.app, business.app, and health.app. These domain names would, like any other generic term, be seen as representative of the specific app community as a whole. If a developer builds educational apps but is not allowed to be listed within the education.app site, it could signal to consumers that they are not a "trusted" or "verified" app developer. Google could use these generic domain names to further its Android operating system and the apps that run on it at the expense of app developers. The above examples illustrate the importance of GAC's suggestions. They would allow ICANN to fully consider and evaluate the ramifications of applications, especially for strings representing generic terms which could have a severe impact on an entire industry. Conclusion GAC's advices regarding safeguards for new gTLDs advance the goals of the new gTLD program. We urge ICANN adopt such advice in their consideration of applications for new gTLDs. Sincerely, Jonathan Zuck Jonathan Zuck | President | Association for Competitive Technology 202-331-2130x101 | 202-331-2139 (fax) | jzuck@xxxxxxxxxxxxx<mailto:jzuck@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> Check out : www.Innovators-Network.org<http://www.innovators-network.org/> 010100000111001001101111011101000110010101100011 011101000110100101101110011001110010000001110011 011011010110000101101100011011000010000001100010 011101010111001101101001011011100110010101110011 011100110010000001101001011011100110111001101111 011101100110000101110100011010010110111101101110 P Please consider not printing this e-mail unless necessary. ________________________________  Google Letter to Christine Willett, pg. 4 (April 6, 2013).  Jessica E. Lessin and Spencer E. Ante, "Apps Rocket Toward $25 Billion In Sales" Wall Street Journal (March 4, 2013) available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323293704578334401534217878.html.  GAC Communiqué - Beijing, People's Republic of China, Annex I, pg. 8 (April 11, 2013).  Google Letter to Christine Willett, pg. 4 (April 6, 2013).  GAC Communiqué - Beijing, People's Republic of China, Annex I, pg. 7 (April 11, 2013).  GAC Communiqué - Beijing, People's Republic of China, Annex I, pg. 11 (April 11, 2013).