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Username: mbrittan
Date/Time: Tue, October 17, 2000 at 9:05 AM GMT (Tue, October 17, 2000 at 1:05 AM PST)
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Score: 5
Subject: Owning Multiple Domain Names: A Shared Domain Service Business

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        Introduction:

This is my first post on this board, so here is a short (?) introduction, and opinions. Since I am always in overbooked mode, please excuse my lack of response to most messages, and mail... I am posting as a major customer of Image Online Design (IOD), in regard to the use of the ".web" domain in the ICANN root.

I have a large selection of some of the earliest ".web" domains registered through Image Online Design, when they first became available in 1996. Because of this, my domain collection is a common topic on message boards and news lists. I did not respond during the previous ICANN message board discussions (pre-Yokohama) about my investments in the .web domain, since I thought the timing was a bit premature, and of course, I was busy. I am writing this now, however, to express my concern about ICANN's intentions with the ".web" domain.


Select IOD as the .web Registry:

I strongly recommend that ICANN assign registry rights to Image Online Design (IOD) for the new ".web" top level domain. Given the long history of use of the .web domain by Image Online Design (since 1996), assigning use of ".web" to any other company would be an injustice. Making an unsound decision, like not awarding .web to IOD, is not a good foundation for building an internet government. A poor decision by ICANN could bring ICANN's integrity into question, and cause further delays in new TLD deployment. A poor decision could tarnish the image of ICANN in the world's eyes, and put ICANN in conflict with the free marketplace. The .web situation could also put ICANN in conflict with its own role, as an enforcer of Intellectual Property rights. The image of ICANN could be greatly improved by a decision in favor of IOD and the .web domain. It is important to make this decision, and remove any shadow of impropriety associated with the apparent conflict of interest problems with other .web applicants.

I was well aware that there was a business risk with my early 1996 investments in .web. I was confident, however, that IOD's approach to managing and promoting this TLD reduced the risk to an acceptable level. At the time, IOD was already offering its service in the alternate root, as well as being on a good path towards acceptance in the default IANA root. After four years of offering .web service, and taking registrations, IOD's position and claim have only been strengthened. It would be mean-spirited, and an act of bad faith to not allow IOD to be the .web registry for ICANN.


My Business Model:

I am one of those domain name customers that has purchased hundreds of names, including .web, .com, .net, and .org. Almost all of my domains in the .comnetorg TLD's are available for public use, either for free, or for very low cost to the user. We are able to offer these free and low cost services by sharing a domain name among multiple users. This is our "Business Model". I have been running this business for four years. I am not hoarding domains, but rather, I am actually putting the domains to real use, offering low cost web and email services. A typical hoarding situation involves a large collection of domains, some with serious trademark problems, that are usually left undelegated (no proper DNS service), and without web page or email service. Since the beginning, I have specialized in common words that could be used by multiple users. I am a fanatic about having the domains properly delegated (just ask Chris Ambler about the fanatic part), and offering reliable email and web service.

I do want to describe my business in detail, since most people seem to have a presumption of guilt when they first see my internet investments. I hope you will recognize that a shared domain business model, as described below, provides a useful service to the internet community, making popular names available for web and email service to those that could not afford a popular domain name dedicated to a single purpose. An example domain in my business is Bornagain.com, which has thousands of free email accounts, allowing thousands of people to benefit from this single popular domain name. My purchase of the .web domains from IOD was to augment the 100+ .comnetorg domain names I already use in my shared domain service.

I own about 400 hundred ".web" domains registered through IOD, which have been available in the alternate root (ORSC and others) for four years. I also own about 100 ".com, .net, .org" domains, all in use on the default internet root. Many of them, like Antique.org, Christ.com, Jesus.net, Math.net, Churchnews.com, are popular sites with strong user communities, while others like Blessed.com, Bornagain.com, Npcomplete.com, Psalm-23.com, Scripture.com..., have various combinations of services like web page forwarding, email, hosting, etc. I personally choose the domain names for use in the web service packages. My sites fall into several of my favorite categories, like religion, technical, and common words. My purchase of .web domains from IOD was intended to help grow my domain name service business. All of the .web domains were bought with the intent of offering web and email service, just like the services currently offered with my 100+ .comnetorg domains.

In the shared domain business model, each domain is offering service to multiple users. By sharing the domain among multiple users, we can reduce subscription prices to the user. It is necessary to offer services on multiple domains to give the users a choice in name service. It is also necessary to have multiple domains from a business perspective. It is usually too involved, and too expensive, for a single user of a "good" domain name to offer free email service. And asking a single user to offer web pages under "coolestnameintheroot.org" is not reasonable, since the overhead is large for a single domain.

I believe that shared commercial domain name services, such as the commercial domain name service my company has offered for over 4 years, are good examples of "best use" for the DNS. While this shared domain business model is inappropriate for names with strong trade and service marks, it is quite appropriate for domains using common words. When a domain service company offers service to multiple users on the same domain, like our services at Bornagain.com/yourname and yourname@Bornagain.com, it spreads the domain use over thousands of potential domain name users. This relieves the economic pressure on the domain, and allows us to provide the user with low cost services on a domain, compared to thousands of dollars for a popular domain dedicated to one user. Most people (by far...) do not need an entire domain name, so shared use in a domain name at low cost makes sense.


Buying & Selling Domain Names:

I have been approached many (many...) times by others wanting to purchase a domain. My business model is to offer the worlds best shared domain name service. In this service, most domains are operated in a shared service mode, with user email and web pages. I think it is important to protect strong trade marks on the net, but sharing common words makes sense when possible. We believe it is in the best interests of the internet to encourage commercial shared domain use - a business model that allows for domain sharing. Strong mark owners retain their rights, while common word domains retain their rights - the right to remain a common word.

Since our first domain purchase four years ago, our business plan has been to offer low cost shared email and web service, on multiple domains. It is not part of my business model to "trade" or "speculate" in domains. This does not mean that I will not sell a website or domain. It just means that my business model, primarily, is to sell low cost email and web service on collections of domain names.

I do acknowledge the rights of others to trade, invest, sell, buy, or transfer, partially or fully, their rights of use to a domain name. I would really love to have somebody come along and buy part interest in some of the popular domain names I run (for big bucks of course), and help me make better sites for Christ.com, Antique.org, Math.net, Jesus.net, and others. Selling part interest (or full interest) in a commercial asset is not wrong. I would hope we could continue to live in a society where we are still free to buy and sell at will. In my case, selling part interest in my business helps the business to grow, by bringing new funding for labor and materials... and new labor means jobs.


Activate .Web in the First Release of TLD's:

It would be a mistake to exclude .web from the new release of TLD's, since it would exclude the most popular new TLD, and leave it in the alternate root exclusively. This would definitely split the root into multiple roots, and provide a powerful incentive for users to move to the alternative roots. As you are aware, the .web extension has been available in the alternate root, like ORSC and others, for over four years now. Traffic in the alternate root has been small, since most users do not know how to configure their browsers to see the alternate root domains - a 3 minute project for a 14 year old... By leaving the IOD version of .web in the alternate root, you would be encouraging a split in the root. No other domain would promote this split in the root. Leaving .web unassigned in the ICANN root will definitely promote a split in the root.

Now don't get me wrong here... I think splitting the root is a "good thing" (tm), but I don't think .web is the place to start the split, given its long history on the net. Assigning .web to a competitor that is currently in conflict of interest can only lead to continued questioning of ICANN's integrity. Assigning it to other competitors can only lead to questions of late-comers acting in bad-faith. It is time for ICANN to improve its image of under-the-counter secret dealings, and make the decision to allow .web to be used by IOD in the ICANN root.


Summary:

Failure to assign .web during the first release will block most of the internet from easy access to one of the best 3 letter strings, and force .web into the alternate root exclusively, thus promoting a split in the root. Assigning .web to one of the new applicants may work "by force" (since ICANN controls the default root), but this would harm the ICANN image, guarantee law suits, and give ammunition to those questioning the integrity of ICANN. The conflict of interest problems ICANN has with other applicants for .web are serious, and guaranteed to cause problems. Ignoring the 4 year history of IOD is also guaranteed to cause problems. Although the .web case is awkward, the award of the .web registry to IOD is the best decision to make in an awkward situation, and would go far in showing fair mature decision making by the organization that claims to be capable of governing the internet.

Other "alternate domains", like .biz, .art(s), .love, .whatever, do not have the unique long history that .web has with IOD. The .web domain is an exceptional case, and I would hope that the governing body of the internet treats this exceptional case with justice and wisdom. For this reason, it is time for ICANN to offer an olive branch, and unite the web by letting IOD be the .web registry. This decision in favor of IOD could help put ICANN in a positive light, and would demonstrate sound, fair judgment by ICANN in its role as the governing body of the ICANN root.

     

Scalably yours,
Marc Brittan (aka Job)
www.Christ.com
Christ.web


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