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Username: huguesdb
Date/Time: Sun, November 5, 2000 at 3:31 PM GMT
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer V5.5 using Windows 98
Score: 5
Subject: Final comments

Message:
 

 
        The public comment period is coming to an end so here are some final comments on my perception of the posts and their added-value to the TLD decision process. I will try to avoid partisan views – specific mention of TLDs are as examples only and do not constitute support or lack thereof.

There seems to be general consensus  on a number of points:
1) The need for new TLDs
2) The acceptance of certain restricted TLDs
3) The expensive and complex process to get new TLDs


And several fundamental issues have been raised :

4) The process ICANN has proposed :
   a. Only a few TLDs will be accepted
   b. The implicit vision behind the process
   c. Potential conflict of interest in ICANN and associated advisory organisations

5) The sunrise period :
   a. Trademark protection vs freedom to register domain names
   b. Big business interests vs freedom of expression

6) Generic unrestricted TLDs

7) TLDs requested by multiple applicants

Lets consider the points in order.

1) The need for new TLDs

This is certainly the strongest comment from all the posts. It is clearly documented by ICANN that they also feel this very strongly.

While some public comments support ICANN in its wish to move cautiously, by introducing new TLDs in a controlled manner, this clearly does not meet the requirements of the internet stakeholders, as reflected in the public comment forum.

The comments clearly say ‘ICANN, please allow as many TLDs as possible.’

The reasonable conclusion, posted several times, is to allow all TLDs that:
   a. Basically satisfy the ICANN criteria.
   b. But have a reasonable business plans rather than a water-tight one.
   c. Are representative of their intent (ex.  .coop seems to represent the worlds co-operatives. .fin does not seem to represent the financial community).

For those that do not meet all the criteria, ICANN should suggest to the applicants that they re-submit their proposals. I am sure the banking / financial community sees an interest in a .fin or .bank.

The above covers the applications for TLDs that are not ‘contested’.

2) The acceptance of certain restricted TLDs

Applying the criteria adopted by ICANN with some nuances, a large number of sponsored and restricted TLDs should be accepted. Although not exhaustive nor objective, the following seem to fit the bill:
.air
.co-op
.health
.law
.mus
.post
.union


Some of the others need a second chance to conform to one of more of the major criteria. Users see no reason to exclude them for an unknown time period – until the next round of new TLDs.


3) The expensive and complex process to get new TLDs

Most comments on this subject find the current process expensive and complex. There is some support for the high application fee but overall, the comments go in the opposite direction – there is a desire to make it as easy to register a TLD as it is to register a domain name.

A suggestion is that ICANN studies the feasibility of this by setting up a working group to evaluate this option. The annual meeting in Marina del Rey would be a good opportunity. Clearly, the impact on ICANN finances must be taken into consideration.


4) The process ICANN has proposed

We believe that before the applications were posted, the process ICANN proposed was basically sound and in line with its objectives.

Now that the applications have been posted and there has been considerable public comment, there are some lessons to be learned.

   a. Only a few TLDs will be accepted

This is very strongly contested with many different arguments. A suggestion is that ICANN puts together a working group with a mission to come with a recommendation within one month – keep the initial ‘a few TLDs’ or to accept ALL reasonable proposals.

   b. The implicit vision behind the process

It is implicit that there will be one registry for a particular TLD. This seems to be at the core (no pun intended) of the most voluminous and emotional public comments.

This would imply that there is one registry for .kids, one for .web, etc. and the ‘possessor’ of the registry stands to make substantial revenues and have, for a significant time period, a monopolistic position.

There are no major technical reasons that this needs be the case. – although it does impose some constraints on the operation of a registry.

A suggestion is to allow multiple registries for any TLD, just as there are multiple registrars today. This seems to be the most reasonable option available today to satisfy the issues raised by the public.

In the case of a restricted TLD, ICANN manages or delegates the management of the policies and procedures to a representative organization. This is the key role of ICANN or the sponsor. A separation of registry and registrar functions has been suggested – and received quite some support.

In the case of unrestricted TLDs, ICANN must ensure that registries work together on the technical level while competing on the business level.


   c. Potential conflict of interests in ICANN and associated advisory organizations

ICANN has published which members have an interest in one or more of the proposals and have recused themselves. To my knowledge, only Amadeu Abril i Abril did this before the process actually started.

The general public clearly wants more than this:
   - assurance that these persons will not influence the decision making process,
   - assurance that this list is exhaustive,
   - assurance that the freely elected directors will be able to vote on the TLDs,
   - assurance that the non-elected directors will vote in accord with the basic criteria defined by ICANN,
   - assurance that advisory organizations are also free of conflict of interest,
   - assurance that the recommendations made by working groups are actually adopted and not overridden by directors,
   - assurance that the comments on the public forum are taken seriously and how they affect decision making.

A suggestion is that ICANN puts together a position paper on potential conflict of interests and reviews its current process in accordance – before the voting happens – even if it delays the voting. The posting on the web site is a step in the right direction but does not seem to be enough. In the absence of such a clarification, any decision by ICANN will not get the level of trust needed to effectively implement its decisions.


5) The sunrise period

There are both emotional and very rational points of view on the ‘sunrise period’ – both for and against – and there is not much time to come to a conclusion.

The potential risks are legal (in the US anyway). A working group with the necessary experts and representation should be created.

ICANN must ensure that it is not exposing itself or applicants to legal issues. If there is a risk, then plans for sunrise provisions must temporarily be put on hold and this criterion should not be used in evaluating proposals.

6) Generic unrestricted TLDs

To summarise the .web, .biz, etc. public comments… it is far too difficult. One of the issues have been summarized in ‘The implicit vision behind the process’.

From the postings, it seems that the resolution of this issue is key to the credibility of ICANN and that the solution is not clear. I am surprised that this issue was not addressed more fully in the application process. ICANN members and advisory associations certainly suspected that multiple organizations would submit proposals for the same TLD.

Based on the public comments, ICANN cannot win on this one - there will always be dissatisfied public and   applicants.

Lets take an example. There are several proposals for .biz, .kids, .tel, .shop, etc. Of these proposals, several seem to satisfy the basic ICANN criteria.

Several outcomes are possible:

   .a) Grant no new generic unrestricted TLDs for now.

Grant none until adequate solutions are found. This will satisfy no-one, maintain the status quo and go against what ICANN is trying to achieve. It has the merit of not failing with respect to the user community and not favoring one party.

   .b) Grant a few generic unrestricted TLDs

This will favor one or a few parties at the expense of others who’s proposals are probably just as good (or marginally different).

The basic internet issues (domain name space scarcity, effective competition between registrars, etc.) will be slightly or marginally advanced.

   .c) Grant many generic unrestricted TLDs

All those applicants who have a proposal which fits the criteria are accepted. This implies that a single TLD is not the exclusive domain of one registry.

This is the solution many public comments support – implicitly or explicitly.

It does change the rules ICANN had in mind since :
   - the current phase is no longer an experiment at introducing new TLDs
   - the intent was to introduce a few TLDs
   - the role of ICANN changes significantly.

The first two points are a question of a bold decision by ICANN :  you thought things should be one way and through experience (introducing new TLDs) learnt differently.

The role ICANN would play with this option is less focused on who can or cannot operate a particular TLD registry but far more on ensuring that the operation of TLDs works effectively.

It seems that most of the opinions on the public forum go in this sense (excluding those posts which simply defend a single application).


7) TLDs requested by multiple applicants

This has also been the subject of many posts, often the most acrimonious, partisan and emotional. The perception is that there can only be one winner, at most.

This is not a technical constraint and the DNS can allow for multiple registries for a single TLD.

In order to come to an equitable solution for all applicants and the internet users, each competing TLD must be considered apart. The ‘best’ solution for .kids may be very different to the ‘best’ for .tel. In .kids, there are good proposals and ideas from several applications.

It is suggested that working groups are created with the applicants, members of ICANN and relevant specialists to come to a consensus position.


Conclusion

We thank ICANN for the opportunity to express public sentiment on the TLD applications and related issues.

The public comments clearly shows support for the need for new TLDs, that these are needed in the best possible time frame.

It raises several issues on the sunrise period, ICANN’s TLD process, competition for name space, conflict of interest, etc. which need to considered carefully before decisions are taken.

If the public were in a position to decide, then it is probable that they would:

   - accept ALL proposals that fit the ICANN criteria,
   - work with the applicants of the others to come to an acceptable proposal,
   - set up several working groups to emit recommendations on the contentious issues.

This may mean that the simple cases are allowed to start first while those proposals that are more controversial may take some time to solve. I am confident that if ICANN clearly shows an intent to work, in a transparent manner, towards equitable solutions, the applicants will have the patience to work with ICANN on resolution.

Finding win-win-win solutions (applicants, ICANN, users) is not going to be easy in all cases but for the credibility of the internet, it seems to be a good objective.

Good luck,
Hugues Du Bois
Switzerland
     

 


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