Comments on the Draft new gTLD Application Guidebook
Dear Sirs, Thank you for considering my comments on the new gTLD Draft Applicant Guide Book. The excellent CRAI report dealing with just one small aspect (Registry/Registrar separation) of the likely pressures new gTLDs will bring to the existing regulatory framework has highlighted many significant points that should be subject to public discussion. I therefore think it would be very helpful if consultants like CRAI could do similar analysis on other areas of detail. i.e. for each area of detail examine the impact of introducing new gTLDs, offer suggested outcomes and request public comments. Whilst recognizing the current RFP is a draft and "work in progress", it seems to introduce quite a few unknowns and ambiguities which need to be clarified before anyone can make substantive comments on the draft as whole. In light of this hopefully there will be a further chance to comment on the draft before it is submitted to the board. It's easy to call for less regulation of markets and complain about restraint of trade but markets are amoral not moral and as such need regulating. As we have seen all too clearly in the recent and current financial markets it is important not to be complacent in the face of recklessness and greed. At this point in time ICANN is very fortunate in that designing system for new business areas is a lot easier than trying to retrospectively modify an existing system through necessity because it was too loosely constructed at an earlier date. The last thing ICANN should allow is the creation of a shadow Domain Name System which provides little benefit for internet communities while enabling a series of speculative bubbles and investment schemes. Such a system would inevitably introduce costs and burdens to individual users and organizations simply trying to go about their day to business and even more worryingly damage trust in both ICANN and the DNS. There are already problems effectively regulating the existing DNS system. Given these problems one needs to ask can the regulatory framework scale to meet an order of magnitude increase in gTLDs? Even responsible large registrars do and will continue to push the boundaries wherever those boundaries are drawn and it seems ICANN will need more tools rather than less to ensure a level playing field. For example the warehousing of names using shadow entities and non compliance of the RRA e.g. not permitting registrants transfer domains to their preferred registrar. (Using the wording of the RRA to delay the implementation of consensus policies for as long as possible, amending user agreements and then subsequently claiming registrants have agreed to breaking the ICANN consensus polices of their own volition and using the notion that their own agreements take precedence over those they have agreed with ICANN. But what can the board actually do if they want to enforce this? It is highly unlikely given the size of the registrar concerned that the board will or even could terminate (which seems to be the only sanction available under the current RRA) the registrar concerned to enforce these transgressions of the RRA.) Watching major and on the whole responsible registrars twist and turn to gain economic advantage even in good economic trading periods shows just how important it is to have clear unambiguous rules to govern the market even before the introduction of any new gTLDs. New gTLDs as proposed are likely to introduce profound and historic change to the nature of the DNS and I am certain that many do not fully understand the implications of these changes and just how far reaching these changes will be. I am sure many of the participants in the actual new gTLD process know what they have in mind, but these thoughts and details should be presented and discussed in public so that there can be a consensus developed from the community on exactly how new gTLDs should move forward thereby minimizing any adverse impacts on innocent third parties. Adding a limited number of new gTLDs as and when needed allows for an almost infinite expansion of the namespace, whereas moving "selected" single entities, ones with huge marketing budgets for branding purposes eg. .ibm or .google etc. will, if successful fundamentally change the nature of the internet. One of the reasons for the phenomenal success of the current internet model is a cost effective single worldwide level playing field. If the creation of super brand single entity gTLDs is successful then by their very success they will disadvantage all other brands, which will in turn necessitate the other brands into obtaining their own brand gTLD. This not only places huge additional costs and complexities into doing business on the internet but also has the paradoxical effect of limiting choice. (There can only be one .apple At the moment there are 260 or so apple.tld possible. All the different entities called "Apple" from around the world can try and work out a way of coexisting without some registrants having to choose a different or longer name. For many businesses and individuals this process over the last 15 years has been resolved. Admittedly .com is the most cherished TLD but introducing new single entity gTLDs will not for the most part change the preference of .com over all other existing gTLDs. Further it is unlikely any of the single entity gTLDs will give up their domains in other existing extensions, again the new super brand gTLDs are providing little benefit or innovation to the DNS as a whole.) On a side note what happens when these brands merge? Do they have to go through the whole process again and re-apply for a new gTLD? The implications from the creation of pure generic gTLDs are even more profound and risk the creation of monopoly positions. It is simple to make the statement for allowing open competition and let the market decide, and on the surface many people will support that notion. Of all the people who support the opening up of the DNS to allow generic new gTLDs like .search for example perhaps run by Afilias or Verisign etc. How many of those same people would show the same enthusiasm if .search was secured by Microsoft? In most systems, a trademark will be registrable if it is able to distinguish the goods or services of a party, will not confuse consumers about the relationship between one party and another, and will not otherwise deceive consumers with respect to the qualities of the product. On this point the proposed new gTLD process seems to be divergent with current Trademark Law. There are areas where there are pinch points in the supply of domains, however these seem to be limited to two main areas .com and IDNs. If it were possible to allow a round of IDN ccTLDs to join the root this would leverage the existing control framework and at the same time remove bulk of the calls for expansion. It would also provide a breathing space to allow the new gTLD processes to be developed to be more inline with how the majority of users feel would be of benefit to the internet as a whole. Yours sincerely Paul Tattersfield Grange Project Management In summary: 1) The commissioning of reports similar to the CRAI Registry/Registrar separation report to look at the impact of adding any new gTLDs. 2) A further comment period once a more complete RPF has been prepared. 3) If not carefully managed new gTLDs will damage confidence in ICANN & the DNS. 4) Tighter contracts with wording that it is impossible to misconstrue. 5) Much more thought needs to be given to contractual obligations and sanctions. 6) The destruction of the internet's DNS level playing field for all entrants, with the creation of single entity super brand TLDs. 7) Damage the most successful universal branding in the world with the creation of a costly two tier DNS. 8) Effectively limiting further expansion of the DNS just to launch a process at this time. 9) The creation of monopoly positions with generic new gTLDs something that would not be permitted under equivalent Trademark Law. 10) Consideration given to allowing an interim IDN ccTLD round prior to any future new gTLD rounds.