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Sponsored TLDs
  • To: <stld-rfp-comments@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Sponsored TLDs
  • From: "Ana Vasconcelos" <avasconcelos-7544l@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 11 May 2003 18:01:12 +0100

 Should there be Sponsored TLDs ?

No.

  At least, considering the bases of the concept, as they are presently conceived. The issue is not immaterial, because it will, ultimately, influence the institutional framework that is being designed, and hamper Sponsored TLDs’ activities.

  Sponsored TLDs are based on the concept of self - rule. Each community should have the possibility of establishing the rules under which they are ruled, and not to have those rules imposed by outsiders.

  They are also seen as a way of easing ICANN’s legitimacy problems. Because, many people do not consider ICANN the lawful representative of the Internet community.

  One of the problems is the community, the Internet or any other. Communities are cultural entities. There are groups of people, stakeholders, that may have some common interests, but that does not immediately makes them a community. Communities do not grow on trees. Communities have many, most of the times, diffused interests in common. Therefore it makes sense to establish collective decision making processes that deal with many aspects of the community’s life.

  People or entities that have a particular set of interests in common are not communities. It may be interesting for them to act collectively in some situations, but certainly, not most of the times. And those situations are almost always related to the core of their activity.

  The other problem is TLDs themselves. TLDs are a tool that allows the smooth operation of the Internet. Although they may essential to that effect, they entail, essentially, highly technical issues. These issues may be clear to Internet experts but not to the general public, no matter how one tries to divide such public. Hence, no matter what group, apart from that of Internet experts, would have to invest a lot of time and effort to gather information about the functioning of TLDs in other to be able to participate on the creation of the group rules on TLDs.

  That is not likely to happen. Actually, is not likely to happen, whether there are real communities or not. The high information costs drive people away from participating on the definition, creation and production of goods or services.

  This does not mean, that people in general, or in specific groups, do not want to have their voice heard on these matters. The critical issue is that people in general will want their voice heard on a different moment.

  They want to be able to complain if the good or service does not meet their expectations, and have such disputes solved. In this situation, information costs drop dramatically because people will not have to learn everything about a certain subject, they can concentrate on the aspects that hurt their interests. We are all consumers of TLD services, and if things were seen from this angle everything would be easier.

 On these matters, please see Hirschman, A. “ Exit, Voice and Loyalty, responses to decline in firms, organizations and States”, Harvard University Press.

 

  Hence:

-         It makes little sense to look for communities where they do not exist. A lot of time and effort will be put in trying to find the right definition of community for TLDs purposes with little result.

-         Because you assume the existence of communities where they do not exist, their decision making process, in order to be really accepted, would have to establish specific and detailed rules that guarantee the participation of all on the decision making process, and that consensus is, in fact, reached. That, that is not a easy task, is proved by the fact that ICANN’s decisions, the Charters, etc, express lip service to those issues, but do not really establish the mechanisms that would make them work.

-         Because the issue is rather technical, the same reasoning applies since participation is not likely to be very high, even if effective participation mechanisms where created.

-         While everybody is wasting time with these issues, there are very few, if any, mechanisms or entities to which people can complain to and have disputes settled. Courts may be too remote. Therefore it is on these mechanisms and not on communities’ definition and participation that you should concentrate.

 

  Having said that, I see no inconvenient in establishing new TLDs sponsored or otherwise, if that is convenient to the smooth operation of the Internet, or if gives an answer to any other relevant interest (It does not have to be a community or a very large group or anything) while not hurting the smooth operation of the Internet. It is here that you should also focus. Defining these concepts, specially, relevant interest, decoupled from the community thing that will just confuse things.

  I see no inconvenient in TLDs managers, whether they represent communities or not, having the possibility of establishing some of their rules or parameters, based not on self - rule but on a decentralization principle. Provided that there are mechanisms for dispute resolution, and to prevent rules that hamper the smooth operation of the Internet.

  And because the registries and registrars activity is essential to the smooth operation of the Internet, I think that some sort of “licensing” should be implemented. The criteria indicated in the paper seem all right to me, but I do not know the first thing about running a TLD.

  Once criteria are established and accepted by “all”, not only ICANN, but, for instance, national authorities, provided they accept the criteria, could issue the licenses.

  Leaving this matter - selection of TLDs – to the market is not a good idea, because it could have high costs to the smooth operation of the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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