Spectral Web, Inc.
19 November 2001
“Spectral Web, Inc.’s Comments Regarding
Image Online Design, Inc.”
History 101 – IANA to the Present
II. History 102 – The Examiners’
Report: A Study in Investigative Misperception and Error
III. Logic 101
– What ICANN Needs to Do in the Next Application Process
About Spectral Web, Inc.
Namespace has been congested for far too long. While overpopulation in the real
world is difficult to deal with because of three dimensional realities, virtual real
estate is far more flexible. The main determining factors in Internet expansion reside
with the policy-makers and the special interest groups that exert disproportionate
pressure in order to get their ways. As is so often the case, it is the individual
and the small company that are made to cope with resultant conditions. This is ironic,
for many in the early days of the Internet identified the World Wide Web as the great
Namespace congestion exists as a result of procedural lethargy in ICANN's
system and of corporate self-interest. IP constituencies reinforce that lethargy.
Yet if the world was in need of Internet expansion a decade ago, it is starving for
it now. As the online community grows, this situation will not abate.
be told, in technical terms, only one TLD needs to exist, with web developers cramming
all the spaces between logical, generic descriptors. A given company, organization
or individual is welcome to establish operations on ZXTERLETZ-123-XYZ.com, for instance.
That plot of land exists and is almost certainly available for registration.
scores upon scores of similar web addresses are available as Internet locales. That
is not in dispute. Still, for companies, organizations and individuals that want
to stand out in namespace, there is little that such locations offer. Branding, marketing
and advertising costs increase as URLs stray further and further from logical linguistic
strings. Recent global events make the matter even more urgent. With eCommerce failing
-- and now brick-and-mortar commerce joining that quandary -- businesses, organizations
and individuals are in dire need of quality, memorable, and useful domains.
analysts understand that as the consumer base becomes increasingly hesitant to shop
in the concrete world due to security fears, online vendors will assist in bolstering
economies. The need for adding quality TLDs is less abstract and theoretical
than it ever was before, and the Department of Commerce should further urge ICANN
to move at a more reasonable pace, and to employ a fairer, unbiased hand whilst moving
the TLD market towards genuine competition.
Image Online Design, Inc. (IOD) has
functioned as the .WEB registry since 1996, when it was requested by IANA to go live
and prove the technical concept. By the time ICANN cut the ribbon on its application
process in November 2000, IOD was the most proven, most successful applicant.
Its infrastructure, unlike those of the other applicants, was active and tangible;
conversely, the systems detailed in the other applications were nothing more than
mere proposals. They were ideal projections at best and baseless promises at worst.
Spectral Web, Inc., a .WEB registrant and supporter of IOD, is the author of this
statement. Spectral Web is a New York City-based company, devoted to building online
forums and communities, publishing eZines and eBooks, and providing information in
a number of fields. Towards that end, Spectral Web has registered its .WEB domains.
It now awaits the fulfillment of IANA’s promise to IOD via ICANN’s approval of IOD's
I. History 101 – IANA to the
On 16 November 2000, ICANN resolved to enter seven new gTLDs into the Internet's
Legacy Root. This decision occurred after many years of discussion on matters relating
to technical stability, the marketplace, trademarks concerns, policy and procedure.
The rhetoric that ensued in these areas predates ICANN and cropped up after IANA’s
commitment to expanding namespace took its first breath. At first, though, things
were much simpler . . .
In late 1995, a number of individuals working with Dr.
Jon Postel and other members of IANA began the process for the introduction of new
Internet Top-Level Domains. Included in this group was Christopher Ambler, founder
and now CTO of IOD.
On 31 July 1996, Mr. Ambler met with a number of other participants
in this process at the IANA offices in Marina Del Rey, California. At that time,
IANA staff (including Bill Manning and Dr. Postel) confirmed that IOD’s application
for .WEB had been received by IANA and instructed Mr. Ambler to activate the .WEB
registry as a proof of concept. It was represented that the procedure was almost
complete and that the new extensions could be entered into the Internet root, hopefully
by the end of October of that year.
Within 24 hours, IOD made the .WEB registry
available to the Internet. A disclaimer was included on IOD’s site, which indicated
that the process was new and, while October 1996 was the target date, it could feasibly
take some time longer. IANA representatives suggested wording for the disclaimer
and assured Mr. Ambler that all was proceeding well.
Once IOD demonstrated
technical viability, the .WEB application would be approved and .WEB registrants
would be able to develop Websites in the main (Legacy) root using the .WEB domains
As is often the case, matters of policy and procedure were derailed
in the face of conflicting interests; stakeholders began to impose undo pressure
upon those in power and IANA’s application process came to a screeching halt. To
make matters more complicated, IANA stepped down as the controlling body and ICANN
took over. In the meantime, the period of evaluation IANA had established was entirely
ignored by ICANN rather than concluded in a fair manner. A fair conclusion would
have resulted in the insertion of IOD’s .WEB into the Internet root, as this registry
had proven, unequivocally, that its infrastructure and operational base more than
met the minimal requirements of the process guidelines. One might have expected that
ICANN would have resolved IANA’s unfinished business, for the terms of the transition
of power required that ICANN adopt the contracts and agreements that IANA had previously
Needless to say, it did not and, as stated, ICANN ignored the process IANA
had initiated. Further still, many within ICANN have since discounted IOD and have
disparaged it as an irrelevant, illegitimate and unviable outsider. While no doubt
various directors, presidents and board members have a right to question any participant
on legitimate matters, it is quite another thing to revise history, misquote applications
and make decisions according to bias. Sadly, a couple of ICANN’s directors have maligned
IOD and ignored both its history and track record. Despite any attempt to disparage
IOD or gloss over its accomplishments, the facts are clear and verifiable.
Entered IANA’s legitimate process in a legitimate manner
taking registrations only after being told to do so by IANA
operated in good faith within the new processes initiated by ICANN
Has consistently modernized its infrastructure, processes and customers’ self-management
e) Has conducted business in an ethical manner, avoiding
corruption, impropriety and prejudice
f) Has demonstrated superior
As the officers of Spectral Web watched with interest the live
telecast of ICANN’s discussions on 14-16 November 2000, profound dismay set in as
some of ICANN’s directorial board made their bias patently clear. The words they
used whilst speaking of IOD were belittling at best and inflammatory and slanderous
It was apparent that these directors had for a long time harbored prejudice
against IOD, maintaining, against all fact and logic, that IOD was an affront to
the process of gTLD selection. During this meeting a year ago, board Directors Hans
Kraaijenbrink and Franz Fitzsimmons overtly stated that IOD was antithetical to a
single root system, simply because it functioned in a test-bed root. Not surprisingly,
both directors ignored the historical fact that IOD brought .WEB into the test-bed
root under the prerequisite instruction of IANA. The much-overused term “alternative
root” became their mantra as they spent considerable energy in trying to shackle
this perceived dishonor around the neck of IOD.
On the basis of this invented
infamy, Hans Kraaijenbrink stated that he would have no problem turning over .WEB
to another applicant – namely, Afilias, a conglomeration of 19 companies already
established within the domain industry. The handing over of .WEB to Afilias would
have spelled ill-fate for the business of namespace, competition and consumer choice,
for the .COM registry would have been the same as the .WEB registry, albeit masked
behind a different corporate name. During the Fall and Winter of 2000, many opponents
of Afilias predicted that the impropriety, incompetence and dearth of customer support
evidenced by the .COM registry would have translated over to .WEB namespace if Afilias
was successful in hijacking .WEB from IOD. While Afilias never did get its hands
on .WEB, it was granted .INFO and all the predictions have come true: sadly, competition,
consumer choice and diversity are casualties of ICANN’s November 2000 selections.
Any charge that implies that IOD has willy-nilly or presumptuously set up shop
in an alternative root (thereby fragmenting the Internet, intentionally or otherwise)
is misleading and specious. This registry’s goal since Day One was to work within
the system and to be entered into the existing root servers. IOD has always endorsed
a single root system and merely established .WEB in an alternate root under the guidance
of IANA. IOD’s official position on the matter of a single root system is available
at https://www.webtld.com/singleroot.asp. IOD never intended to operate in an alternate
root system beyond the established testing period. The plan was always to demonstrate
unquestionable viability and then be entered into the main root via the established
process. Hence, the reasoning of Directors Fitzsimmons and Kraaijenbrink is something
of a mystery.
The .WEB registry has always played by the rules, in good faith
– first with IANA and then with ICANN. IANA wanted a proof-of-concept and IOD complied.
ICANN replaced IANA, and almost immediately Kraaijenbrink and Fitzsimmons disparaged
IOD simply for existing.
While much damage was done when ICANN selected Afilias
as a registry, .WEB remains in the hands of IOD, though it has not as yet been approved
by ICANN for inclusion into the main root system. It was Dr. Vinton Cerf who insisted
on recognizing IOD’s proprietary rights over .WEB, and the majority of the Board,
with the exception of Kraaijenbrink and Fitzsimmons, inevitably voted in favor of
Vint Cerf: (Time Index: 05:37:20):
guys . . . I am not ready to give up on them. However, if the rest of the board disagrees,
then I of course I will have to stop. But it seems to me, that my concern is with,
that they’ve worked with .WEB for quite a long time and to assign that to somebody
else, given that they’re actually functioning, still makes me uneasy.”
(Time Index: 06:10: 37)
“I continue to harbor some concern
and discomfort with assigning .WEB to Afilias, not withstanding the market analysis
they did, which I entirely understand and appreciate. I would personally be a lot
more comfortable if we were to select a different string for them and to reserve
“I believe that we should award .WEB (to Afilias)
knowingly, that IOD has been in operation as an alternative root with .WEB for some
time; but I remind and fully support what Franz Fitzsimmons said a few minutes ago
-- that taking account of alternatives will open an unwanted route to pre-registration
of domain names and domains -- so I am fully aware of what I am doing in voting in
support of awarding Afilias .WEB.”
Examine Mr. Kraaijenbrink’s assertion. Listen to it and analyze it in the context
of .WEB’s history. Spectral Web is disheartened that one who is commissioned to take
part in the TLD selection process should make such a blatantly egregious statement.
While ICANN has repeatedly stated that its operations, choices and decisions are
made according to fairness and honesty, Director Kraaijenbrink’s reasoning was entirely
inadequate and has seriously damaged the credibility of ICANN. At the very least,
the professionalism and propriety of the application process has been seriously compromised.
Spectral Web now suggests that many of the problems Afilias currently experiences
with its .INFO systems could have been avoided if it had operated in a test-bed root
prior to approval (much the way IOD has for the past five years). However, the core
problem is that Afilias itself was formed in haste just two months prior to the application
process of November 2000. Amazingly, at the time Afilias was hailed as a superior
registry choice and swiftly approved, it had no base of operations. There was no
headquarters, no operational base and no indication where the promised pan-global
support offices would be established. In fact, while other applicants correctly indicated
a genuine address in their respective applications, the address Afilias offered was
that of its lawyer’s office in New York City.
Only after Afilias was approved
did it go ahead and purchase its operating systems. Only while its contract with
ICANN was being set to ink were databases plugged in, turned on and tested. This
is an entirely backwards approach, akin to giving a child a driver’s license before
he has passed the driving exam. The results are now clear: like that child sitting
at the wheel of an SUV, Afilias’ systems are predictably crashing.
leaves the observer dumbfounded: by the time ICANN’s application process came around,
IOD had been operating its registry for five years with a functional infrastructure
that is constantly monitored and regularly upgraded. Still, IOD was rejected by ICANN
while Afilias – newly formed and absent operating systems – was overwhelmingly approved.
Does anyone contest that ICANN’s process is flawed?
History 102 – The Examiners’ Report: A Study in Investigative Misperception
Currently, Spectral Web would like to comment on the examiners’ report
on IOD. A version of this report was submitted to ICANN prior to the proceedings
of November 2000.
While Spectral Web appreciates that all aspects of all applications
need to be scrutinized, Spectral Web is distressed by the seeming lack of objectivity
evidenced by the examiners in their report. In fact, looking not merely to the report
on IOD but to all reports, it is clear that analysis is often erroneous, inconsistent,
biased, illogical, superficial and unreasonable.
With so much careless,
clumsy and flippant work having been generated by the examiners, so much that was
unsubstantiated, so much that was glossed over, so much in error, so much clear irregularity
and potential for impropriety, ICANN's procedural future comes into question. Given
the sketchiness, hastiness and partiality of the respective reports, Spectral Web
notes that the $50,000 application fee seems altogether unwarranted.
treatment of IOD’s application was particularly distressing. Considering the multitude
of errors and misstatements generated by the examiners therein, it is entirely possible
that the examiners held as a conscious, biased and predetermined objective, the disqualification
of IOD. Spectral Web notes that even opponents of IOD have come to this conclusion
after examining the events of the last eighteen months.
This does not bode well
for ICANN. Credibility and evidence of fairness are essential if ICANN expects respect
and support. Spectral Web holds that further abuses will inevitably move the Department
of Commerce to restructure ICANN, replace it, or impose upon it an oversight committee.
The examiners’ report of November 2000 illustrates that the examiners
· fabricated data
· left opinions unsubstantiated
· speculated baselessly
the apparent strengths of IOD’s application – the precise strengths that they identified
in other applications
· held IOD to a higher standard than it held all other applicants
Here are the facts:
1) Technical Matters
a. Registrar Protocol
IOD stated that there would be a six-month timeframe for accepting registrars other
than IOD. IOD thought that six months would be required to finish testing the registrar
protocol system. In its flexibility, IOD reassessed and determined that a 30 to 60
day time frame was feasible.
Firstly, Spectral Web thinks that the original six-month
projection was itself acceptable. Network Solutions enjoyed many being the singular
registry for many years.
Secondly, compare IOD’s time estimates with the length
of time it takes for ICANN to bring the approved gTLDs online.
· Using IOD’s original
estimation of 6 months as a guideline, ICANN took twice that time to bring .INFO
and .BIZ online once those gTLDs were approved.
· Using IOD’s revised estimation
of 30 – 60 days as a guideline, ICANN took 6 – 12 times that time to bring .INFO
and .BIZ online once those gTLDs were approved. In other words, had ICANN approved
IOD in November 2000, the protocol in question would have been available nine to
ten months prior to ICANN’s target date.
Where does this lead one? It leads
one to the conclusion that all the noise ICANN made a year ago regarding IOD’s registrar
protocol projections was baseless, disingenuous, irrelevant and diversionary.
Thirdly, a comparison of IOD's six month protocol projection with Neustar's six
to nine month protocol projection demonstrates questionable attention to the mechanics
and details of the process. (To review, Neustar was the third competitor for .WEB
and, like Afilias, is operated by pre-existing namespace players.)
examiners’ reaction to IOD’s 6-month protocol projection with its unequivocal acceptance
of the fact that Afilias originally wanted to exclude all registrars not currently
members of the Afilias conglomeration would almost seem elitist. This meant that
no universal protocol would ever have been made available.
Fifthly, the examiners
ignored the fact that IOD’s application indicated an existing registrar protocol
that merely required testing; instead, the examiners incorrectly stated that IOD
had yet to develop the protocol.
Bearing all this in mind, there seems to
be no explanation of the reasons ICANN accepted the examiners’ assessment of IOD's
application as being flawed for the original six-month projection.
is also deeply disheartened by ICANN itself. When IOD indicated to ICANN that it
would commit to a 30 to 60 day registrar protocol timeframe, ICANN chastised IOD
for making an amendment to the application. This is another example of the "Damned
If You Do, Damned If You Don't" principle. Spectral Web requests that ICANN be reasonable
and fair, and recognize that such flexibility in an applicant should be commended,
not condemned. Furthermore, Spectral Web finds nowhere that Afilias was similarly
condemned when it modified its own application to suddenly include registrars outside
of its own members.
Even more to the point – if IOD was condemned
for making a minor change in its application, why has Afilias been allowed to abandon
its own application in favor of the plan eventually detailed in its contract with
ICANN? Is this fair to any of the applicants of 2000? It is proper to say that
if ICANN demands rigidity, it must itself adhere to it.
Infrastructure Versus Theoretical Infrastructure
IOD brought to ICANN’s application
process something that its .WEB competitors could not; it brought a working infrastructure.
In fact, IOD was the only applicant among the forty-four gTLD applicants that had
this very substantial component. Every other applicant offered ICANN nothing but
verbiage and assurances when it came to their technical plans. However, Spectral
Web maintains that an infrastructure should exist on more than mere paper if an applicant
is to be deemed credible. Matters became surreal in November 2000 when the examiners
praised Neustar, which, in the end, was supported by no infrastructure whatsoever.
This alone brings the credibility of the examiners into full question.
the problems being experienced by Afilias with its .INFO rollout are based largely
in the fact that Afilias’ own infrastructure was non-existent when ICANN approved
it as a new registry.
It will indeed be interesting if, as a result of the current
inadequacies being demonstrated by Afilias, ICANN will henceforth require that, prior
to approval, a prospective registry must first demonstrate technical viability in
an alternative root system. This is the most logical, most responsible method of
demonstrating infrastructure strength and stability. It is also the procedure established
by IANA for IOD in 1996 – and it is the exact procedure that Directors Kraaijenbrink
and Fitzsimmons have condemned IOD for being a part of. Without a doubt, Spectral
Web expects that both directors would vote against such a proposal. If they instead
vote in favor of this requisite, they will, in effect, be admitting that the principle
upon which they condemned IOD, was in fact flawed.
It should be further noted
that, when Afilias brought its infrastructure live in September 2001, its systems
were incomplete. An error-message that registrants typically received whilst trying
to modify nameserver information, reported that the domain in question belonged to
a new extension and that the modification interface for this extension was still
in development. Registrars indicated that the problem was due to Afilias’ inability
to send nameserver updates and that an additional month was projected.
to handle some of the most basic matters in registry operations is unacceptable and
is an embarrassment to all parties involved, including ICANN. IOD’s registry has
been a complete registry since 1996 and has been an embarrassment to no one.
The examiners reported that IOD was not prepared to
scale. This is particularly frustrating because even prior to November 2000, IOD’s
systems were prepared to scale both horizontally and vertically.
The examiners’ report stated that 20,000 registrants represented
too low a registration base for the purposes of determining the viability of the
.WEB infrastructure. However, this statement,
· negates the years that the .WEB
infrastructure has been seamlessly running
· condemns every applicant from the
word “go” as the examiners feel that a prerequisite for being approved registry status
is having been a registry. Given the cautionary declaration from the Names Council
in October 2000 on the matter of “pre-registrations,” Spectral Web respectfully suggests
that all reasoning here is in accordance to the “Damned If You Do, Damned If You
This circular reasoning brings us back to the matters of
industry monopolization and an unfair selection process. If an applicant is to be
disfavored for not being Verisign or a rich registrar, nor for having strong ties
to said entities, one wonders just how open the “open application process” is, and
how justifiable the $50,000 fee is.
If IOD's 20,000-registration base does not
prove viability, then ICANN must never approve an applicant with anything less than
ten times that amount. Or is 200,000 also too short a track record? Where shall the
arbitrary line be drawn?
Curiously, the examiners did not condemn other applications
for having no evidence of technical viability in the absence of a registration base.
The examiners' report inaccurately stated that IOD's
registry will provide 28.6 TPS, when IOD’s application indicates clearly stronger
numbers. ICANN's subsequent rejection of IOD was based, in part, on this erroneous
information. To so judge an application is not only unethical; Spectral Web questions
f. ICANN Cancelled the Consultation Period
As part of the consultation period detailed in the application process, ICANN
was invited to tour IOD’s facilities in order to witness first-hand, the viability
of the .WEB registry. This never took place because ICANN cancelled the consultation
While an applicant is strongly admonished for making subtle changes in
its application (even those that improve matters), ICANN itself can suspend any part
of the application process. This hardly seems acceptable after the remittance of
a $50,000 fee, with the assumption that the process would be fair, thorough, accurate
g. Circular Reasoning
report stated, "It is not clear if IOD can manage the higher level of capacity. Its
simulations suggest it can, but IOD has no experience operating any kind of system
at this scale."
Spectral Web finds this statement to be specious, as the only
entity that has formal experience in this matter is Verisign. In essence, the logic
that was used is predicated on the principle that no entity should be granted rights
to a popular TLD other than Verisign. This reasoning brings us back to square one
regarding monopolies, competition and the credibility of the application process.
2) Financial Matters
a. Available funds
report was in error with regard to IOD’s financial strength in November 2000. While
$450,000 was available in the form of cash, IOD had commitments of $2 million imminently,
and an additional $6 million upon approval. Furthermore, IOD had a credit letter
that promised to discuss the possibility of extra funds.
By the time IOD entered
ICANN’s application process, it had already spent more than $1 million developing
and improving its infrastructure. This is a necessity that other applicants did not
secure. While the overwhelming majority of the applicants held off buying their systems
prior to hearing ICANN’s decision, IOD’s registry was immediately available for incorporation
into the main Internet root. The revenue expenditure is a matter of IOD’s operational
history; it is not confined to mere speculative promise giving.
that the examiner quoted is very obviously in error. What remains to be answered
is "How credible is the examiner, given the frequency of these errors?”
b. Unsubstantiated Claim
The examiner stated that IOD's financial
projections were questionable – yet no explanation or counter-projection was provided.
This makes the examiners’ statement relatively meaningless.
a. Recognized Need for Competition in the Domain Market
In the past, ICANN recognized that competition in the TLD industry needed to be
was furthermore very significantly detailed by the National Telecommunications and
when ICANN’s directors approved Afilias, they ensured that said competition was systematically
obliterated. The players have not changed very much, but have merely joined in the
cloak of a new corporate name. There is no competition in today’s market. Quite simply,
the registry and registrar players of 12 months ago are the registry and registrar
players of the current industry. Verisign is on both sides of the net, rivaling pretty
True competition is derived from permitting new blood into the arena.
IOD should receive accolades for representing healthy balance in the domain market.
While it is simple and easy to make broad claims of anti-trust and anti-competitiveness,
a quick review of how namespace is divided among registries sheds considerable light
on the underlying evidence:
· Verisign owns .COM, .NET and .ORG.
owns .INFO through Afilias.
· Neustar and Melbourne IT own .BIZ.
· Register.com owns .PRO. Register.com was an industry player prior to
being awarded .PRO.
· Educause owns .EDU. (Mike Roberts, former president of ICANN,
is also a representative to Educause.)
· CORE, an industry player, back-ends two
other approved TLDs. CORE is also a member of Afilias.
This is not adequate
competition, particularly in the case of the two primary unrestricted TLDs, .COM
and .INFO, for Verisign’s competition is Verisign.
Proof of Concept
In 2000, ICANN asked all applicants for a proof of concept for
their respective gTLD proposals. IOD, through its labors for four years, had already
proven the concept of WEB. If ICANN ever grants .WEB to a registry other than IOD,
it would be awarding that registry a product whose concept was proven by IOD.
The examiners' report condemned the $15 registration
fee for .WEB. Though the examiners and ICANN remain free to issue their opinions
on the matter, it is not within ICANN's charter to regulate price. Where the market
is concerned, ICANN should only provide competition – true competition – and allow
the market to determine ultimate pricing. A $15 fee, or even a $35 fee, is hardly
The examiner stated, "(The $15 price) is at least two and a half times
the registry price anticipated by others in this category. This higher price is likely
to deter registrars and potential registrants. Firstly, with the initial registration
fee of $70, Network Solutions did remarkably well in its early days. The examiners’
logic is also contrary to all analysis that recognizes the significant strength of
the .WEB gTLD. Quite simply, because .WEB has been identified by ICANN, applicants,
the examiners and the Internet public as being a superior gTLD, it is senseless to
assert that strong .WEB domains won’t sell for $35 (gross). The market is ripe for
an incalculable number of interested parties. With all due respect, Spectral Web
does not think that the examiners had a grasp of the magnitude of this industry.
4) Business Matters
IOD has been a part of the process for such a long time and has pioneered the .WEB
registry under direct instruction to do so, it has never sat on its laurels, but
rather has constantly moved its operations forward. ICANN continues to ignore the
history of IOD. Given that ICANN will no doubt, today and in a future rollout, award
TLDs to less tested, less tried, less proven and less prepared applicants, it is
incumbent upon ICANN to finally acknowledge IOD's record. The alternative has too
many repercussions not merely for IOD, its thousands of registrants, the Internet
community and industry fairness, but upon ICANN itself; every time ICANN awards a
gTLD to an entity less prepared than IOD, it will initiate a revisit to an anti-IOD
Conversely, by bringing in new blood, ICANN will illustrate to the world
that this industry and ICANN's operations are not fettered by inbreeding and the
turning of blind eyes.
b. Robustness and Longevity
has been in operation since 1996, not merely surviving, but flourishing. Given the
sharks that occupy these waters, Spectral Web maintains that IOD's history of endurance
is a testament to its viability.
c. Strength of Management
The examining team criticized IOD's CEO and COO for not having technical skills.
This is not a prerequisite, nor is it relevant. Their roles are to function as business
managers, not as technicians. The logic the examiners used here is akin to logic
that mandates that the manager of a bakery know how to build and fix ovens. This
person does not need to know these matters. He needs to know how to run and manage
a business, which clearly IOD’s CEO and COO have proven for the past 5-plus years.
As for the technical knowledge: that is why specialists are hired and contracted.
Certainly, no one expects the CEO of Ford Motor Company to also be a mechanic.
illustrate this point, pardon the following irreverence – but how equipped to run
the day-to-day technical operations of the root are the ICANN directors? Can they
handle failures? Instability? Can they troubleshoot? Respectfully, Spectral
Web does not believe that many of the said persons are specialists in these areas;
no doubt, Vinton G. Cerf is, but Dr. Cerf is the exception rather than the rule.
For the most part, non-specialists within ICANN preside over the Internet itself.
Furthermore, Spectral Web does not find in the examiners' report on Afilias or
Neustar or anywhere else, that the respective CEOs and COOs are required to have
technological expertise. Even more condemning is the matter of Afilias' technical
personnel: at the time ICANN approved Afilias for .INFO, it had none. This is a reality
that is currently demonstrating itself; .INFO is plagued with inadequacies and technical
Additionally, it is unrealistic to expect that any applicant should
be operating with 1,000 or more employees in the field prior to approval. The report
offers paradoxical reasoning. Clearly, the only entity within the domain registry
field with that kind of existing employee base was Verisign and a handful of registrars.
This not only negates competition; it negates ICANN's open application process in
which ICANN has, to date, garnered $50,000 per applicant. In short, why did ICANN
accept these fees if ICANN does not care to regard non-players?
While the examiners
criticize IOD for identifying a 70-person staffing need, the examiners do not bother
to identify this same matter in the competing applications. They nowhere explain
the reasoning for their bizarre double standard.
Statements and Unsupported Assertions
The examining team stated "A failure to
service a global customer base on a 24 - 7 basis, particularly during the initial
startup period, could fatally damage the reputation of the new TLD."
given the history of IOD’s systems, Spectral Web does not believe that said systems
are likely to fail. Conversely, Afilias’ systems have proven to be grossly deficient.
Secondly, the above quote is entirely speculative and unsubstantiated. Follow-up
logic is not even employed.
Thirdly, ICANN's charter does not include monitoring
the reputation of various TLDs. It has not monitored the branding, marketing or subsequent
reputation of .TV .MD, .BZ,
.FM, .WS, .CC, etc.
.TV is for Tuvala, not for
matters related to the television industry.
.MD is for Moldova, not for matters
related to the medical profession.
.BZ is for Belize, not for matters related
to the medical industry.
.FM is for Micronesia, not for matters related to radio
.WS is for Western Samoa, not for “World Site,” “Web Site” or any
.CC is for Coco Islands, not for “Commercial Company”
to the outer world, the reputation of a TLD is not determined by a registry's 24
- 7 status; it is determined by how the TLD is developed by individuals and businesses,
and how said individuals and businesses market their websites and develop their operations.
This, more than any other element, is what will impact the general Internet user.
Given the self-evidence of this point, the examiners’ above quote seems so obviously
incorrect that Spectral Web questions the care the examiners devoted to providing
a flawless investigation.
Still, Spectral Web maintains that IOD will be
able to operate at, or extraordinarily close to, a 24 - 7 basis. They will certainly
perform substantially better than Afilias to date has and will not embarrass itself
or ICANN with lack of readiness.
Conclusion to Part II -- Spectral Web
is saddened that, despite a $50,000 application fee, the only document that ICANN
provided as part of its rationale to reject IOD in November 2000, was a 10-page examiners’
summary, flawed with misinformation, unsubstantiated interpretations, half-analysis,
shallow divination, hokey mathematics and general misdiagnosis. Though ICANN promised
in November 2000 to provide 300 pages of source material, to date – one year later
– it has not done so.
Bear in mind that this statement by Spectral Web is
longer and more analytical than was the examiners’ report – and Spectral Web provides
it to ICANN significantly cheaper than the examiners’ fee.
Logic 101 – What ICANN Needs to Do in the Next Application
ICANN needs a success story now more than ever before. Throughout the
course of its history, many fair-minded people and watch-groups have provided convincing
arguments that ICANN is motivated by the continuance of the existing TLD monopoly,
rather than by the principles of namespace diversity.
Very simply – ICANN must
demonstrate that it is capable of being fair, open and committed to bottom-up decision-making.
It needs to take stock of the damage Verisign, Afilias and NeuLevel have incurred
on its reputation and should seek measures of counteracting that damage with more
Matters to Consider:
1) Sunrise Period –
It hardly seems possible that after over six years of discussion and debate on the
matter of IP rights, the resulting sunrise period was executed in such a slipshod
manner. Though a sunrise period in principle is fundamentally flawed – given the
amount of verbiage exhausted in its name, it is astounding that Afilias let things
turn out so badly.
The vast majority of .INFO domains registered during the sunrise
period were fraudulently registered. Afilias chose a sunrise process that was inherently
flawed, and then under very vocal admonishment and demonstration of inadequacy, refused
to improve matters. There are two possible interpretations that analysis of
the facts renders:
a) If Afilias genuinely lacked the foresight
to anticipate the easily anticipated problems inherent in its sunrise procedures,
its competency must be called into question
b) If Afilias was incapable
of providing a coherent, effective sunrise process (not necessarily a perfect one),
its competency must be called into question
Which of the above two possibilities
is more palatable? A reasonable argument can even be made that Afilias intended the
outcome that the process ultimately wrought. It had much to gain from a failed process,
as did one of its partners.
a) By permitting fraudulent registrations to
accumulate in the .INFO registry, Afilias ensured itself a significant amount of
revenue that would have otherwise not transacted.
b) By permitting fraudulent
registrations to accumulate in the .INFO registry, Afilias ensured that its
partner, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) would receive multiple
arbitration cases, thereby lining its own pockets.
c) Once arbitration results
in the termination of all challenged .INFO domains, said domains would either return
to the pool of available domains and be subsequently registered by another party,
or the arbitration disputant would remit registry fees once the domain is transferred.
The case for impropriety is no more comforting than is the case for incompetence.
Neither Afilias n or any of its members should be henceforth permitted to serve as
the registry for yet another TLD.
Remedy for the future: Eliminate the concept
of a sunrise period. It is not only procedurally challenged, it is also ideologically
challenged. Trademark law does not guarantee IP holders monopolization rights over
a descriptor – particularly generic ones. Caterpillar, Inc. should not have
special rights to the descriptor “CAT.”
A reasonable replacement model is the
one IOD detailed in its application of November 2000. As opposed to the sunrise
period as traditionally conceived, IOD’s application offers a "phase-in" period in
which IOD proposes to give trademark holders preemptive rights to challenge existing
.WEB registrations. Certainly, this seems a fair compromise between the IP constituency
and the average individual, business or organization. It is a sober means of recognizing
both the scope and limitations of trademark law itself.
System – The lottery systems evidenced by both Afilias and NeuLevel were calamitous.
We have already seen a judgment against NeuLevel in a court on the grounds that its
lottery, however described, was illegal. This casts a shadow, not only on NeuLevel,
but also upon ICANN that approved the registry and allowed the proposed lottery system
to make its way into the contract.
Afilias itself instructed registrars to take
“applications” for domains, the average being priced at around $5.00. In the vast
majority of the cases, the fee was non-refundable, as it was construed an administrative
This practice fed both the registry and the community of registrars, for
each domain name was inherently assured disproportionate financial mileage.
is fair to state that many people spent far more than $35 or $70 for a given .INFO
domain in their participation of Afilias’ own lottery system. This ultimately sits
in opposition to the trepidation ICANN felt with regard to IOD’s projected SLD gross
cost of approximately $35. Quite simply, if ICANN can authorize the lottery system
that became a part of Afilias’ and NeuLevel’s business plan, all trepidation regarding
IOD’s fee must logically evaporate.
The inconsistency is further amplified when
one considers that a person could potentially spend hundreds or thousands of dollars
attempting to acquire a single desirable .INFO or .BIZ domain without any luck and
without being granted a refund – while $35 for a guaranteed .WEB domain is regarded
by the ICANN directors to be exorbitant.
Remedy for the future: Though a
first-come, first-served system represents other problems, it is the least exploitive,
filled with the least technical complications and is demonstrable of efficacy in
a way that a round robin is not. We have seen the lottery system. That “proof of
concept” has proven to be grossly flawed. When ICANN approves the next group of gTLDs,
it should implement a different system – the tried and true, first come, first served.
3) Require Test-bed Operations – Roland La Plante, chief of marketing
for Afilias admitted to The Register that the story of .INFO’s rollout has been replete
with problems, entirely related to operations and technical viability: “It has not
been the smoothest, most error-free launch: “If we did it again, before we went live
we would test it under a more significant load" (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/22151.html).
As a result of not being prepared and of having an incomplete infrastructure,
Afilias experienced numerous problems, significant downtime, a variety of registrar
interface errors, ambiguous, faulty whois records, etc.
Remedy for the future:
La Plante’s admission is refreshing. However, When La Plante discussed what Afilias
would do if given a second chance at its first chance, he alluded to a process that
IOD has, for the past five years, implemented under the approval, instruction and
guidance of IANA; IOD operates .WEB in a test-bed root to ensure that everything
is functional, smooth, adaptable, predicable, objectively verifiable and demonstrable.
This is ironic when one considers the recommendation of ICANN’s director, Hans
Kraaijenbrink, cited in Section I above. To repeat, Kraaijenbrink declared,
believe that we should award .WEB (to Afilias) knowingly, that IOD has been in operation
as an alternative root with .WEB for some time; but I remind and fully support what
Franz Fitzsimmons said a few minutes ago -- that taking account of alternatives will
open an unwanted route to pre-registration of domain names and domains -- so I am
fully aware of what I am doing in voting in support of awarding Afilias .WEB.”
Web maintains that it is wise for a registry to test its infrastructure in a test-bed
root. The wisdom and sobriety of this has been made evident by Kraaijenbrink’s and
Fitzsimmons’ Registry of Choice, Afilias. Implicit in their admonishment of IOD for
using the “alternative root” as a test-bed is the assertion that Afilias’ method
of testing is the preferred course. Perhaps these gentlemen will now realize how
grossly in error their analysis was, how mistaken their admonishment of IOD was and
how damaging their reasoning was to the November 2000 gTLD selection process.
4) Registrants versus “Pre-registrants”
Some voices have brought
into question the legitimacy of .WEB registrations; however, Spectral Web finds the
validity of every .WEB registrant to be self-evident.
When a registry (either
one originally residing in the Legacy root or one initially residing in an alternate
root) opens its doors for registrations and charges a fee for its service, the registrant
becomes a customer of that registry and the registration itself must be deemed a
contract. Subsequent approval of that registry into another root does not and must
not constitute an invalidation of the standing registrations. Simply put, Spectral
Web and all the other thousands of .WEB registrants are customers of the .WEB registry,
IOD, and are not customers of ICANN. Rather, ICANN is merely the technical body that
conducts business with registries, and has no right to disqualify registrants that
are protected by registry policy.
Current .WEB registrations have the added legitimacy
of being children of the IANA/IOD agreement of 1996. IOD was told by ICANN’s predecessor
to begin taking genuine registrations in anticipation of being added to the main
root. Those registrations were made by paying customers; there were no theoretical
transactions or simulations involved.
In light of this, ICANN should refrain from
using the word “pre-registrants” when referring to IOD’s registrant base. In the
context of .WEB registrants, this word has no basis in legal, historical, pragmatic
or technical truth.
Perhaps ICANN might consider reserving the term “pre-registrants”
for those individuals who submit domain applications to the various registrars, but
which have not yet been recorded in the registry in question. As for all of IOD’s
registrants – we are already in the registry and are therefore rightfully called
Regardless of the terminology, one thing is certain: IOD’s registrants
are the earliest registrants of any of the gTLDs formally proposed one year ago.
.WEB registrants predate any registrant in either the .INFO or .BIZ database.
.WEB registrants predate ICANN itself.
founder company, PSI-Japan, knows something is wrong with Afilias; it quit the conglomeration
as a result of the impropriety evidenced. PSI’s representative, Robert F. Connelly,
made this unprecedented decision, even though he personally enjoyed a comfortable
position on the Afilias board.
ICANN needs to be wiser when it chooses the .WEB
registry. In fact, the .WEB registry already exists, so ICANN needs to act fairly
in finally recognizing this fact. IOD has never been the rogue that some on the ICANN
board have gone on record to opine. In fact, it is far more competent, customer-centered
and ethical than its .COM, .INFO and .BIZ counterparts. This reputation will only
spill over onto ICANN’s currently tainted reputation, and will provide genuine evidence
that ICANN can play fairly, honestly and in accordance with Netizen interests.
was not long ago that W.J. Tauzin and John D. Dingell of the Committee on Energy
and Commerce, and Fred Upton and Edward J. Markey of the Subcommittee of Telecommunications
wrote the Honorable Donald L. Evans of the Department of Commerce, supporting further
expansion of namespace. The writers of the letter advocated for .WEB and asked that
ICANN “act without discrimination or bias against any worthy applicant, including
those applicants from the last selection round as well as those organizations that
have opted to utilize alternative roots to propagate their TLDs”
The urging of Tauzin, Dingell, Upton and Markey underscores the dire need for
fairness in the process. Spectral Web appreciates that there are those within the
United States government who do not join the vilification of alternative roots that
some within ICANN provoke. However, make no mistake about it. Despite many claims
to the contrary, IOD has operated within ICANN’s process from the very beginning,
endeavoring always to gain approval into the Legacy root. IOD began operations in
1996 under the instruction of IANA, the then-sanctioned ruling Internet body. It
never sought permanent residency in an alternative root, but simply entered one in
order to demonstrate viability, as required by IANA. IOD accomplished its mission
five years ago and has more than earned a place for its .WEB in the main Internet.
Finally, beyond its interests in IOD, Spectral Web recommends that ICANN look
for alternate examiners when it commences its second application round. Those serving
ICANN during Round One seem to have lacked objectivity.
Spectral Web, Inc. (www.spectralweb.com) is a New York City-based company
devoted to all fields of knowledge. It is developing an extensive network of sites,
forums and ePublications in the areas of education, business, health, science, law,
social science, entertainment, language, literacy, arts and humanities, etc.
Web's first project is its ePublication, AmericanWriters.com eZine (ISSN 1534-9209)
that is devoted to the craft of writing and to the canon of American literature.
The eZine is available at www.AmericanWriters.com.
Much of the work currently
being done remains behind the scenes while Spectral Web is in the process of developing
network architecture, writing content and contacting field specialists.
· build forums in the hopes of catalyzing connectivity and
interactivity among people of similar interests and needs
· shape its communities
around the interests of merchants, non-profit organizations, educators and students,
professionals, businessmen, scientists, technicians, healers, specialists, artisans,
hobbyists and the general Internet user
· promote literacy and student education
in school-outreach programs
· compose and sponsor meaningful, educational content
· devote resources to human rights, civil rights, child advocacy
and general human-interest initiatives
· create family-friendly/child-safe forums
· promote the humanities, partnering with galleries, museums, artists, writers,
· produce low-cost specialty e-Zines. Spectral Web is looking
into the possibility of producing eZines in partnership with schools throughout the
world, to be offered to subscribers free of charge. These eZines would focus on major
content areas as well as teen culture
· provide free or low-cost email, message
board and bulletin board services
Web, Inc.’s Comments Regarding the Choice of New Top-Level Domains and Registries”
(04 November 2000:
Image Online Design, Inc.'s Reconsideration Request: