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ICA Anti-Phishing Victory Might Be a Curse!

Alex Tajirian

A triumph by the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) over tactics and legislation detrimental to domain name owners might end up being a case of winner's curse, a triumph bought at the expense of the industry. In picking this one battle to win, the association ignores a broader war, the range of issues our industry needs to address.

ICA is typically associated with lobbying on behalf of domain name owners for the lawful ownership protection of their domain names, especially as ownership relates to trademarks. For example, the association is spearheading the opposition to the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act, introduced by Senator Olympia Snowe in February 2008. And it's true that protecting against false trademark-violation claims is a must-do, one that would help owners and, indirectly, the industry as a whole.

But ICA treats that goal as its only goal, and there it is making a mistake. For example, getting domain names onto companies' marketing radar may be more important than victory in a legal battle. A recent McKinsey Global survey of marketing channels doesn't even mention domain names.

In theory, ICA understands that it has to do more than one thing at a time. Consider this statement on its Web site: "our mission is to promote and share best practices among participants in the domain name industry and to educate consumers, policy makers, law makers and the media about the value and benefits of direct navigation traffic and the domain name industry." That's a wide-ranging mission, and it should be. After all, what
good does it do if the trademark battle is won but domain names are used only as storefronts and not in the whole spectrum of value-adding roles available to them?

ICA's current focus raises a number of interesting questions:

  1. Who decides what issues to focus on over time?
  2. Is ICA the right organization to promote their above-stated mission statement?
  3. How does the community measure the effectiveness of ICA? (For example, the non-passing of the anit-phising act is one that is neither a necessary nor a sufficient measure of ICA's success.)
  4. Michael Collins, ICA's executive director, will be speaking at the TRAFFIC Down Under conference. Will the presentation be available free online or does one have to attend the conference?

To avoid the winner's curse, we need to adopt a multifront communication approach with trademark owners, Madison Avenue, and IP consultants. This can only be achieved through domainer activism and cooperation among the stakeholders.

By Alex Tajirian, CEO at DomainMart
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ICA mission Michael Collins  –  Nov 06, 2008 1:38 PM PDT

Who decides what issues to focus on over time?

Our members should take a bigger role and communicate the issues that are important to them to ICA leadership. ICA is in the process now of recruiting more leaders from within this industry.

Is ICA the right organization to promote their above-stated mission statement?

Only time will tell, but again we need more participation and I mean that ICA needs volunteers in addition to funding. It should be clear that our mission cannot be accomplished without greater participation. I hope so.

How does the community measure the effectiveness of ICA? (For example, the non-passing of the anit-phising act is one that is neither a necessary nor a sufficient measure of ICA's success.)

It is a measure of how we can be successful when we have community involvement. This is the one issue that ignited a large amount of participation for a while.

Michael Collins, ICA's executive director, will be speaking at the TRAFFIC Down Under conference. Will the presentation be available free online or does one have to attend the conference?

I do not know, but I encourage everyone who can to attend. The profits go to a good cause. :)

(1) Who decides what issues to focus Alex Tajirian  –  Nov 08, 2008 11:23 AM PDT

Our members should take a bigger role and communicate the issues that are important to them to ICA leadership. ICA is in the process now of recruiting more leaders from within this industry.

If the public statements of some community members is correct, ICE would be primarily serving that segment of the community and membership would be biased, Without knowing the true focus of ICA, membership would also be constrained. Thus, there is an element of chicken and egg in drawing membership. But clarifying the current focus and the willingness to listen to non-member voices can resolve the predicament.

Only time will tell, but again we need more participation and I mean that ICA needs volunteers in addition to funding. It should be clear that our mission cannot be accomplished without greater participation. I hope so.

It is not an experiment that we can afford to conduct! Thus, before hoping, one needs to put forth the basic foundations for a viable organization, including objectives, organizational structure, and performance measures. Then we can hope that there would not be too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns. If a group disagrees with the ICA structure, they can form a competing and/or a complementary organization.

It is a measure of how we can be successful when we have community involvement. This is the one issue that ignited a large amount of participation for a while.

Community involvement to do what? When there are no clear measurable objectives, there are no meaningful results. Community involvement is not enough. Everyone is talking about the success of User Generated Content (UGC) such as Wikipedia. But few are talking about the failures of some attempts such as that of the LA Times and Penguin Books.

In general, finding effective performance measures for a non-profit organization is not easy. We cannot measure it by stock prices or profits. Thus, community involvement is necessary. Moreover, to align results with objectives, it is also important that some kind of regular monitoring and disciplining/rewarding mechanism be in place. We cannot just say, ooops, we failed!

I do not know, but I encourage everyone who can to attend. The profits go to a good cause. :)

I thought the Internet was about sharing and building on non-private information! What is different about this and previous conferences?

Future of Domain Names Mark Fulton  –  Nov 06, 2008 2:27 PM PDT

I also believe the ICA could be doing more to promote the intrinsic value of domain names to the general public.  This is something that has been said time and time again, an idea that will change the face of domaining.

Alex, I was very inspired by one of your previous posts, "Long Live the NeoDomainers” as this tells the story about how a domain name purchase only takes place if the buyer is informed about the value of a good domain name.  I wrote a followup here:

Spread the Word: 5 Reasons to Invest in Domain Names

I fully support the ICA and their efforts to protect the rights of domain owners.  We should all help to do our part by donating so that the ICA can diversify it's efforts.

Mark, thanks! Alex Tajirian  –  Nov 08, 2008 11:34 AM PDT

Mark, thanks!

I also believe the ICA could be Michael Collins  –  Nov 07, 2008 7:34 AM PDT

I also believe the ICA could be doing more to promote the intrinsic value of domain names to the general public.

Mark,
Thank you for your support. I did not mean to minimize the suggestion that ICA do more to promote the intrinsic value of domain names. I agree that we need to do more in this area. I have been trying to bring Dan Warner and Fabulous into ICA in a meaningful way. He is a big advocate of this important work. ICA sees TRAFFIC Downunder as a big step towards a bigger involvement by Fabulous. I encourage anyone who can still make arrangements to join me at TRAFFIC Downunder.

Thanks again,
Michael

Michael,To whom are you promoting the intrinsic Alex Tajirian  –  Nov 09, 2008 2:23 PM PDT

Michael,
To whom are you promoting the intrinsic value? Domain community, Madison Avenue, or branding managers, or...? In principal, the answer should be clear from the objectives of ICA. My suggestion is that you start with the domain name community!

For example, getting domain names onto companies' Kevin Ohashi  –  Nov 11, 2008 11:53 AM PDT

For example, getting domain names onto companies' marketing radar may be more important than victory in a legal battle. A recent McKinsey Global survey of marketing channels doesn't even mention domain names.

Perhaps because domain names are to marketing like real estate to stores; at least in the view of large companies.

I also think the notion of promoting the intrinsic value of domain names is a waste of money from an organization that is supposed to be defending the rights of registrants.  It should be focused on one thing and do that well in my opinion.

I do agree the ICA needs more transparency, more communication and reaching out to everyone in the domain name community.  Still waiting on that front.

Answering Kevin Ohashi Michael Collins  –  Nov 24, 2008 3:38 PM PDT

Kevin,

I agree that currently ICA cannot do too much more than focus on policy and legislation issues. However, many trade associations do much more than lobbying and I hope that ICA is able to grow its influence to advertisers.

We are working on better transparency. I welcome your questions about ICA. You may have questions that we have not anticipated in our transparency efforts.

Thanks,
Michael

Strategic and tactical focus Alex Tajirian  –  Nov 24, 2008 4:42 PM PDT

Michael,

My essay has no problems with ICA focusing on policy and legislation issues. To avoid confusion, it should be stated as ICA’s current mission statement.

I look forward to understanding your stratgic and tactical approaches to policy and legistration thruough your suggested transparency.

Regards,
Alex

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