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Response to B. de la Chapelle's ideas

  • To: eoi-new-gtlds@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Response to B. de la Chapelle's ideas
  • From: Antony Van Couvering <avc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2009 10:33:15 -0500

Bertrand de la Chapelle put forward an interesting idea in his response to the 
Board's call for comments about expressions of interest for new gTLDs (see 

His proposal is that potential applicants should submit just the string, and 
that anyone could then apply for that string.  I quote:

- During the Expression of Interest (duration to be determined), potential
applicants would submit their intended string(s).
- After the closure of the Expression of Interest, the list of strings would
be published and only those strings would be considered in the first round
of new TLDs.
- Capacity to apply for the delegation of the management of each of these
TLDs would however remain open to other candidates during this first round
(longer duration period).

On first glance, this seems appealing.   Unfortunately, it won't work, for the 
following reasons:

1. There is no fee in his proposal, which means that anyone could (and would) 
submit every possible string to the EOI, in order to preserve their opportunity 
to apply for whatever string they want.

2. If there were a fee, no-one would submit an EOI, because you would be paying 
to enable the competition, which is not something anyone wants to do.

3. There are multiple new TLD proposals that I have seen where the string 
itself is not so valuable (as Bertrand puts it, "“high-value common names”) but 
the business plan behind it is great.  But to publish the string would give 
away the business plan. 

So Bertrand's proposal, while attractive, is easily gamed and unjust to some 

I am furthermore disturbed by an insistent theme in Bertrand's post, which I 
think needs to be addressed before it becomes yet a fossilized term with no 
meaning, and a touchstone for those who would derail the new gTLD process.  I 
refer to "fairness," especially as it concerns the supposed advantages enjoyed 
by the "ICANN insider."

We are now laboring under the four (now five?) "overarching issues." These were 
never referred to in the policy development process, but are an invention of 
ICANN staff introduced by staff in March 2009 in Mexico, and are now enshrined 
in the ICANN process for no good reason whatsoever.  They are even referred to 
as "threshold" issues, again with no basis.  The "ICANN insider" threatens to 
become another of these code words.  In his post, Bertrand is at pains to make 
sure that this mythical beast does not have any unfair advantage.

So far, the only unfair advantage given to anyone are to the ccTLDs, who enjoy 
protection from the ultimate ICANN insiders, who now wield increased powers -- 
the Government Advisory Committee.   The issues of trademark protection, root 
scaling, malicious conduct, which weigh so heavily on the gTLD process, were 
simply ignored with respect to the fast track ccTLD IDN process, even though 
reason would suggest they apply equally.   Personally, I am in favor of 
expansion of the namespace because it helps consumers, and so I support the new 
IDN ccTLDs.  It is nonetheless disingenuous to speak about fairness in one 
process and to ignore it in another.  

Now, to the supposed "ICANN" insider.  Some of those who plan to apply for new 
gTLDs (such as myself) have been involved in ICANN for some time.  But many 
participants are brand new.   

.paris -- Is the City of Paris an ICANN insider?  Assuredly not.  

.nyc -- Is the City of New York an ICANN insider? No.

.eus -- Is The Basque language community an ICANN insider?  No.

.gal -- Is the Galician region of Spain an ICANN insider?  No.

.bzh - Is the Breton region of France an ICANN insider?  No. 

.board, .skate, .ski, .bike, .surf - Is Adrenaline TLD, the group behind these, 
ICANN insiders?  No.

.eco - Is Fred Krueger, my partner, an ICANN insider?  No, he wanted to start 
.eco without knowing anything of ICANN and became involved in ICANN just last 

This list could be considerably extended.  In fact, of all the announced 
potential TLD applications, only a very few are from people who have 
participated in ICANN for more than a year.    And many of the remainder could 
only considered "insiders" because the process has taken so long. 

When we consider "fairness," we should keep our eye on the prize.  The 
"fairness" we should consider is to the people who use the Internet, the end 
users.  They will benefit from new namespaces.   They will benefit from lower 
prices and increased choice.   They will benefit from competition among 
registries.   Fairness to this or that applicant will come from a predictable, 
timely, and well-administered application process. 

A quick glance at the latest DAG -- if the word "quick" can in any way be 
associated with it -- will convince anyone with an unjaundiced eye that this is 
not an undertaking for the naive and uninformed.   The technical requirements 
are substantial.  The policy requirements are substantial.  Anyone who is not 
an "insider" will quickly need to hire one or more insiders just to understand 
the DAG, let alone complete the application or run a registry. 

Let us therefore be very careful when talking about fairness and ICANN insiders:

- The new gTLD process has already attracted many new applicants.   The DAG is 
well-publicized and is available for all to see.
- There is no indication that "insiders" are monopolizing the applications.   
The evidence suggests the contrary.
- Fairness is a far more meaningful concept when applied to the actual users of 
the Internet
- It is virtually impossible to apply for a new gTLD without substantial 
"insider" knowledge

Let's come up with a fair process and stop trying to pick and choose who should 
get what name, or designate special classes of people who should be 
disadvantaged.   That was the fatal flaw of the previous gTLD rounds and we 
should not replicate it now.  

Antony Van Couvering
CEO, Minds + Machines

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