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ICANN Finds Its Voice

I think we are finally getting somewhere: ICANN is no longer fluttering flusteredly whenever a lobbying group sends a nastygram over the transom.

Case in point: a letter from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) that arrived a few days ago, full of bombast and muscle-flexing, demanding that ICANN immediately stop the new gTLD program until a long list of demands from the ANA were met, or else the ANA would be forced to take some Very Scary Actions:

Should ICANN refuse to reconsider and adopt a program that takes into account the ANA's concerns expressed in this letter, ICANN and the Program present the ANA and its members no choice but to do whatever is necessary to prevent implementation of the Program..."

The ANA is also featuring on its website an unintentionally hilarious video of ANA chief Bob Liodice mangling facts, grammar, vocabulary, good sense, and Internet architecture as he warns about "an insidious problem that is about to take place within the Internet domain." And that's just the first sentence.

Mr. Liodice betrays no sense of embarrassment as he sounds the alarm about this Terrible Thing he has just discovered, even though the ANA has had five years, seven guidebook drafts, dozens of ICANN meetings, and easy access to ICANN Board members and staff to say something about the program before now. Barn door… horse… bolted... oh well. I suspect Paul Revere was not an ANA member.

ICANN, though, has responded forcefully, albeit after the ANA had the ear of the press for five days of unopposed scare-mongering. In a long and substantive reply to ANA's letter, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom takes Mr. Liodice to school and raps him on the knuckles for shoddy scholarship:

Your letter also claims that the program represents "unrestricted expansion" or allows "virtually any word or phrase." These statements demonstrate a lack of understanding of Program details. More research on your part would have revealed: (i) restrictions on delegation rates; (ii) string requirements and limitations; (iii) required applicant background, financial and technical qualifications; (iv) objection processes for infringing and other inappropriately applied-for strings; and (v) standing registry operator obligations in the registry agreement.

Your quotations from the economic studies are highly selective and lead to an unsupported conclusion that more domain names will lead to cyber security lapses or consumer privacy violations. Your claim of "enormous financial burdens" and other broad statements are offered without supporting data or rationale.

ICANN is unyielding in its commitment to the public interest, and the new generic top-level domain Program is only one expression of this commitment.

Please be advised that ICANN will vigorously defend the multi-stakeholder model and the hard-fought consensus of its global stakeholder participants, its duty to act in accordance with established bottom-up processes, and its responsibility to the broad public interest of the global Internet community, rather than to the specific interests of any particular group.

It's good to see ICANN find its feet and its voice. The approval of the new gTLD program is already having some collateral benefits.

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Comments

One needs to ask why some economic systems are more successful By Paul Tattersfield  –  Aug 10, 2011 1:34 pm PDT

One needs to ask why some economic systems are more successful over the longer term than others? The answer ultimately is probably fairness.

If those in control use valuable resources for personal gain or for the benefit of their friends over all others, then those economic systems are often less successful because they are more likely to have to deal with far more negative issues along the way.

Glossing over or spinning events doesn’t make them more honourable. Relying on euphemisms like a strong consensus when an overwhelming majority outside of the contracted and would be contracted parties were and are opposed to the current proposal for the implementation of new gTLDs is not helpful.

Nor is bias by omission. Wasn’t the new gTLD program actually approved before critical restructuring of the GNSO after study and advice of the LSE?  Remind me why was that restructuring necessary?

With regards to ICANN’s mandate I believe it was to introduce competition rather than the notion that new gTLDs should be created in a way which grants an implicit DNS branding advantage in any vertical simply through contracting with ICANN for what is effectively a non competing monopoly position in perpetuity.

As Esther Dyson pointed out the other day it isn’t sensible to create a system where Kraft can register .cheese. Trademark law doesn’t allow such advantage nor should ICANN.

A stronger part of the letter By Kieren McCarthy  –  Aug 10, 2011 1:37 pm PDT

I think the stronger part of the letter is when it digs out the ANA response from 2008 and go through its points and outlines what changes have been made.

I've gone through a bit of the history and context on a blog post: http://dot-nxt.com/2011/08/10/icann-letter-to-ana

But broadly I don't see how the ANA can engage twice, then walk away and return two years later saying 'what happened here? this must all be shut down!'

It is good to see ICANN being a little more confident and forceful though.

Btw I have asked the ANA to come to the .Nxt conference this month to raise their issues and hear what has been done in the years they've been absent. Not heard anything back yet.

Blog link By Kieren McCarthy  –  Aug 10, 2011 1:40 pm PDT

A live link to my post with some background and context:

http://dot-nxt.com/2011/08/10/icann-letter-to-ana

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