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[alac] new gTLDs, GNSO call

  • To: Interim ALAC <alac@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: [alac] new gTLDs, GNSO call
  • From: Wendy Seltzer <wendy@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 05:21:28 -0700

There are two questions on the table regarding new gTLDs:
1. criteria for introduction of 3 sponsored gTLDs, as a continuation of the "proof of concept" stage of TLD additions
2. whether the namespace should be "structured" for the addition of further new gTLDs going forward


In many of the analyses put forward on both of these questions, the prime focus seems to be on exclusion: do the sponsored gTLDs represent a limited community and adhere to their charters by permitting registrants only from within that community? Little attention seems to have been given to the other side: are there people or organizations who are left without logical places to register domain names, or who are denied registration in a sponsored TLD whose charter they fit? It's easy to make the error rate arbitrarily low if you examine only one kind of error -- gTLDs could block all cybersquatters at once simply by refusing any new registrations, but that would hardly serve the point of adding new gTLDs.

At-large Internet users are both domain name registrants and users of the domain name system. As users, they are well served by names that are not confusingly similar, enabling them to differentiate the names they encounter and minimizing typographic or semantic mistakes. As registrants, the "at large" are perhaps the most likely to be underserved by community-defined, chartered gTLDs. For them, I think it is valuable to have a range of options available to all potential registrants, including a variety of true generics for those who don't fit into a neat category. Confusion can be minimized without narrowly structuring registrations.

A second tension appears between market competition and desire to protect registrants from the consequences of registry failure. I tend to think that the intermediate choice of a heavily regulated market is worse than alternatives on either end (free market or openly acknowledged planning), because it leads to false assumptions and conclusions about what "the market" will support. How concerned are we with this type of stability, or are we comfortable letting bad competitors fail? (Note also that a separation between the technical provider and policy provider could make it easier to move a registry if a component failed.)

Just some thoughts.
Wendy Seltzer -- wendy@xxxxxxxxxxx || wendy@xxxxxxx
Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School

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