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61 Businesses Tell ICANN New TLDs Are Needed to Help Consumers, Encourage Innovation, Avoid Chaos

Antony Van Couvering

Sixty-one businesses, organizations, and individuals, including many of the domain industry's major players, yesterday sent a letter to ICANN, detailing the reasons why new top-level domains are required without delay.

If you're interested in top-level domains, or if you just want to understand why they are important to the Internet, this letter lays out the reasons clearly and succinctly, with a minimum of jargon.

The letter [PDF] focused on why top-level domains are needed, and soon:

  • Growing consumer demand
  • Sky-high prices for decent domain names
  • Additional safeguards against Internet crime, built into new top-level domains
  • The frightening prospect of a split root and multiple internets that don't work together
  • Foster innovation in the domain namespace and create thousands of jobs

Finally, the letter calls on ICANN to follow its founding mandate to create competition and choice in the domain namespace by creating new top-level domains.

The signatories include domain name registries, registrars, domain name aftermarket companies, ccTLD operators, venture capitalists, academics, members of ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee, new top-level domain applicants, and business owners and entrepreneurs from outside the domain name industry, representing 16 countries:

Paul Stahura — CEO, eNom (USA)
Jonathon Nevett, Senior Vice President, Network Solutions (USA)
Elliot Noss — CEO Tucows (CANADA)
Rob Hall — CEO, Momentous (CANADA)
Adrian Kinderis, CEO, AusRegistry International (AUSTRALIA)
Hirokatsu Ohigashi, Director, GMO Internet (JAPAN)
Anthony Harris, Exec. Dir., eCOMLAT (ARGENTINA)
Stephane Van Gelder, General Manager, INDOM (FRANCE)
Marcus Faure, Chair of the Executive Committe, CORE Internet Council of Registrars (SWITZERLAND)
Dirk Krischenowski, CEO, dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG (GERMANY)
George T. Bundy, CEO, BRS Media Inc., Administrator of .FM Top-Level Domain (USA)
Alexander Schwertner, General Manager, ePAG (GERMANY)
Bhavin Turakhia, CEO, DirectI (INDIA)
Patrick Vande Walle, Secretary, ISOC-LU; ISOC Trustee; and Member, ICANN SSAC & ALAC (LUXEMBOURG)
Michele Neylon, CEO, Blacknight (IRELAND)
Ben Crawford, CEO, CentralNIC (UK)
Massimo Ralli, CEO, DotRoma (ITALY)
Mickey Beyer-Claussen, CEO, Pervasive Media (USA)
Minor Childers, Founder, Dot Eco LLC (USA)
Christopher Ambler, CEO, Image Online Design (USA)
Emiliano Pasqualetti, CEO DomainsBot (ITALY)
Misha Halvarsson, Managing Director, South Asian Resources, Inc. (USA)
Joe Dolce, Executive Director, Dot Gay Alliance (USA)
Alexander Schubert, General Manager, Dot Gay LLC (LATVIA)
Caspar von Veltheim, Managing Director, Bayern Connect (GERMANY)
Dan Mandell, President, Neutral Space (USA)
Fred Krueger, CEO, Top Level Domain Holdings (UK)
Gertrude E. Allen, Venture Partner, Inventages (USA)
Steven Kelley, CEO, Far Further (USA)
Dr. Henrik Örnebring, Research Fellow in Comparative European Journalism, Oxford University (UK)
Bill Mushkin, CEO, Name.com (USA)
Ivan Pope, CEO, Snipperoo (UK)
Oscar Robles Garay, Director, NIC Mexico (MEXICO)
Dr. Liz Williams, New Top Level Domain Strategist (UK)
Neal Marshad, CEO, Marshad Technology Group (USA)
Tim Denton, Commissioner at Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CANADA)
Jim Dufour, Oceanographic Engineer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Chief Environmental Officer, Dot Eco LLC (USA)
Eric Leinberg, CEO, International Data Preservation (USA)
Stephen Deerhake, .AS Top-Level Domain, CEO, GDNS Inc. (USA)
Richard Lau, Owner, DomainManager.com (CANADA)
Paul Shafi, .GS Top-Level Domain, Director, Atlantis North Ltd. (UK)
Jennifer Johnson, CEO, Hashtag Media (USA)
Alexei D. Leshnikov, Director, RU-CENTER (RUSSIA)
Bill MacDonald, Film and Television Producer ("Rome" + "The Saint") (USA)
Larry Rees, CEO, Strategy HQ (UK)
Clive Flory, CEO, Ostiary (USA)
Dr. Peter Ayton, Professor in Cognitive Psychology, City University London (UK)
Josh Elliot, former IANA staff (USA)
Thomas Keller, Director Domain Services Worldwide, 1&1 Internet AG (GERMANY)
Richard Wilhelm, Board Member, Central Registry Solutions, Member ICANN SSAC (USA)
Dayna Landry, CEO, City Mommy, Inc. (USA)
Adina Reichardt, Chair, dotBayern e.V. (GERMANY)
Herald Summa, CEO, ecoVerband der deutschen Internetwirtschaft e.V. (GERMANY)
Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek, CEO, .HOTEL Top-Level-Domain GmbH (GERMANY)
Katrin Ohlmer, CEO, DOTZON GmbH (GERMANY)
Brette Borow, CEO, Girls Guide To (USA)
Marcus Eppensperger, Board Member, United-Domains AG (GERMANY)
Seth Jacoby, President, FirstLook (USA)
Thomas Lenz, CEO, dotKöln Top-Level-Domain GmbH (GERMANY)
Tom Barrett, President, Encirca (USA)

I also signed the letter on behalf of Minds + Machines.

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Sorry but this is a joke right? Kevin Ohashi  –  Sep 29, 2009 3:49 PM PDT

Although the many benefits of new top-level domains are obvious to many, and although
they are central to ICANN’s mandate, still there are doubters who with great intensity
plead their special interests.

Looking at this list, it is a list of special interests.  Registrars, registries, companies trying to create registries.

I don't however see ICA, which is supposed to be representing domain holder interests.  It is quite clear the companies who signed are the ones with the most to gain from new TLDs.  I don't see much push from anyone else.  I also find the arguments in favor of implementing them as weak as the ICANN IRT.

* Growing consumer demand
There are plenty of TLDs and names still out there, does everyone being able to get 'their name of choice' dot 'something' make the internet more useful?  My suspicion is that it would in fact create more consumer confusion.  We still get TYPE IN traffic on domain names when people mean to search for something.  Adding MORE tlds certainly isn't going to magically make consumers smarter, it's going to add to the chaos and make it worse.  The technological trend has been away from domain names for a while now, search is the way people find things.  Sure domains are a direct way to navigate and people market them, brand them and use them, but it's not an inherent problem.  We certainly aren't running out.
* Sky-high prices for decent domain names
Supply-Demand.  Lots of new TLDs just adds confusion, who really gains?  Registrars/registries and those providing the service.
* Additional safeguards against Internet crime, built into new top-level domains
That's just scare mongering.  Protections built into TLDs, authenticating blah blah.  Secure sites get hacked.  The best software on earth has vulnerabilities at some level.  There are plenty of ways to already make your site more secure, claiming a TLD is a solution is simply scaremongering to earn more cash.
* The frightening prospect of a split root and multiple internets that don't work together
New.net certainly broke it apart.
* Foster innovation in the domain namespace and create thousands of jobs
Thousands of jobs for who and what purpose?  If there is no real value added to society in general, it's as wasteful as a bank bailout.  Innovation in the domain space - sure there might be a couple innovative ones, but how many are simply planing on cashing in on defensive registrations?  The whole purpose of these new TLDs is to simply cash in the basic math people have run time and time again on what happens in a land rush situation.

It's all just a giant money grabbing attempt by pretty much your list of the undersigned and to parade it around as anything else is dubious at best.

Instead of commissioning yet more studies to prove the obvious demand for new toplevel
domains, ICANN’s Board of Directors should instead believe the evidence of the
market, heed their own staff reports, and read the conclusions of the many studies already
conducted – and approve the introduction of new top-level domains without further
delay.

ICANN has constantly, since its inception, re-invented itself to be more transparent, more
democratic, and more responsive to its mandate of bottom-up policy development. The
U.S. Government (among others) has been vocal in its insistence that ICANN follow this
mandate.

That one report that has been called into question even by some of the people on your list: http://www.circleid.com/posts/20090426_icann_irt_report_comment_short_timeframe/ namely about the way it was drafted, the comment period, lack of transparency, pretty much everything ICANN is supposed to do.  So you are simply advocating ICANN do what it's supposed to do, but only when it's in your financial interest.

You also cite facebook as an example and claim more registrations than .COM.  So TLDs are irrelevant, the innovation train goes on with or without new TLDs.  That's not an argument in favor, that's merely a story where you've spun what actually happened into something else to support your argument.

The consumer doesn't know that they demand it.  Your argument is growing consumer demand.  This seems hypocritical.  Do they want it or don't they?  You claim reports should be followed and implemented and then discount reports and predictions as bad indicators.  The logic of your argument fails.

Another point on consumers not getting their name of choice.  Ok, that's terrible, but we can't all name our companies the same thing.  Domains are supposed to be unique.  I have never seen anyone say 'I cannot get my first choice domain name, I won't pursue this venture.' In fact, in my experience with most small business people, entrepreneurs and other non-corporate people they have been creative and found something available.  Very few actually consider purchasing on the secondary market.  Scarcity in fact DRIVES innovation.

Businesses and organization will be able to get meaningful domain names in
extensions that are relevant to their activities. For example, United Capital, who
lost out to United Airlines for united.com, may be able to get united.fund.

Or UnitedCapital.com You think consumers are going to know what extension to use for every type of company?  I need my bank or was it a credit union? .bank? .creditunion? .cu? .fund? Is my credit card also under the same extension?

Combined with what we know about demand for newly-introduced ccTLDs and the
astonishing uptake on Facebook URLs, they provide very significant evidence that new
top-level domains will be met with widespread consumer adoption.

Studies about economic demand are at best hazy, and at worst misleading,
as studies about the future will inevitably prove only that people are poor at predicting it.

@Kevin Ohashi - Thanks for lengthy quotes Antony Van Couvering  –  Sep 30, 2009 4:33 AM PDT

@Kevin Ohashi - Thanks for lengthy quotes ;)

You say, "Scarcity drives innovation."

Trouble is, this is not an episode of McGyver, a contest to see how clever people can be with only a limited set of tools.  While you're absolutely right that no-one with a good business idea quit because they could only get a bad name, think how much better they might have done with a good one.

If you think Gravee, Profilactic, Fairtilizer, Oyogi, Hoooka, Thoof, Weebly, Yoono, Zlio, Diigo, Heekya, Jiglu, Mzinga, Insala, Ooooj, Oooooc, Oovoo, Sclipo, Twones, Yuntaa, Soonr, Pluggd, Gtalkr, Mpire, and Zooomr are desirable names, either for the company (these are all existing Web 2.0-type companies) or for the consumer, then you have a phenomenal memory.  I've typed all these names in, and I still can't remember any of them.  That's a Very Bad Thing when it comes to a brand.

I am fascinated by the question, "Is this good for society?" I've heard it before.  Personally, I think it *is* good, but it's a question that just doesn't get asked in other contexts.  Does anyone ask, "Is another brand of HD TVs good for society?" or "Does society need a new version of Windows?" I've never once heard this line of questioning, and yet when it comes to top-level domain names suddenly the most ardent free-market capitalists seems to revert to a command-economy mindset.

As to the signatories being "money-grabbing":  Those who are "in" an industry are typically those who care about it, think about it, write about it, and yes, make a living with it.  In the domain name industry, this is true of both sides of this question. 

From the comments that you made, and because you mention the Internet Commerce Assocation trade association, and because your blog has a lot of domain-related content (including a screenshot of a bunch of your names with eNom), I would guess that you're a domainer, or at least that you use domain names a lot as part of your web-development business.  Perhaps you too have a stake in this, and are not a completely disinterested party.  That's fine — everyone has to make a living.

Actually, a lot of signatories to our letter (18 by my count) don't have a money stake in this, or a very minor one at most.  If you look through the list and check out who they are (Google is your friend), you can verify this. You could even argue that some of them (ccTLD operators) might even be adversely affected by new top-level domains. 

Anyway, thank you for the comment.

I didn't know what a Google was Kevin Ohashi  –  Sep 30, 2009 7:33 AM PDT

I didn't know what a Google was not too long ago.  Allowing everyone access to 'better' names means more overlap and less creativity.  Using your united example, I want united capital, is it united.com? unitedcapital.com? united.bank? united.fund? united.capital? You're from the domain industry, you know many people to this day will still type .com because they don't understand that is even a tld.  What happens when you open it up to every special interest group and area? Who benefits?

As far as good for a society, we're anything but a free market.  Free markets fail.  Those who preach about free markets take for granted the role of government and regulation and willfully forget what happens in actual free markets.  Comparing a new version of software to a new TLD is not an adequate analogy either.  I think a more reasonable one would be asking if we needed a parallel road system in a country all run by different groups.  When it comes to issues that effect everyone on the planet the belief that corporations should be able to pursue whatever they please is absurd.  ICANN is supposed to act transparently and bottom up, you said so yourself.  Yet your letter makes the argument to do exactly the opposite (see previous comment quotes).

The signatories issue is what bothers me the most, you open the letter as if you are some altruistic group trying to battle on behalf of the consumer and greater good.  However, to anyone examining that list it looks like wealthy insiders simply pushing their own agenda with complete disregard for the established process.  As far as my own personal stake, I have been upfront about my belief since over a year ago on this very site: http://www.circleid.com/posts/86298_new_tlds_no_change/ .  However, it really has very little effect on me whichever way it goes, I have nothing to gain or lose either way it goes.

My biggest problem is the way you've presented this Anthony.  I don't think you've picked the proper arguments or made your case in a way that looks truth worthy to an outsider.  I found many contradicting points in a short (what was it 5 pages?) letter that simply confuse your argument.  I expect better. You need to stick to one line or argument, either data supports it, or you can try for a passionate argument about stifling innovation but the combination of the two simply doesn't make sense at the core of your argument.  I have an economics background and the data argument I find the most compelling, but I am not the only target group, I think you need to pick your arguments again and decide on a more cohesive strategy.

Also, thank you for taking the time to engage in this in a civil manner.

@Kevin Ohashi - it's a public forum, Antony Van Couvering  –  Sep 30, 2009 9:09 AM PDT

@Kevin Ohashi - it's a public forum, and you are free to disagree.  I think the arguments are compelling and speak for themselves.  Introductions of repurposed ccTLDs have been highly successful (think .ME), and I think new gTLDs will meet with the same high rate of adoption.

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