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The Need for a Remedial gTLD Program for #newgtlds

I think the new gTLD program will have many successes.

It is a failure, however, when it comes to serving developing and less developed economies, especially the communities in those economies. Actually it failed in serving communities anywhere, but it really failed when it came to serving the peoples of the world outside WEOG (the UN designations for the developed Western European nations and Other Groups; others including AU, CA US, and NZ).

The first part of the failure was that it cost too much. Estimates are that beyond the exorbitant application fee, the applications cost $1+ Million USD when you take fees, delays, fees, objections, fees, and the community proving grounds (aka The New gTLD Gauntlet called CPE) into account. The ICANN Board did offer developing economies a discount, but the program was developed too late to be of any use but to a very few. Also it would have only amounted to 10% of the total projected costs of an application, perhaps generous in relation to the ICANN fee but not enabling when considering the full costs.

Another facet of the failure with the program was the absence of appropriate outreach. A few speeches in Davos and ads on a few websites do not constitute appropriate outreach to developing economies. Specific outreach was required early on to make sure that the opportunities could be included in long range planning. The participants at ICANN certainly had years to plan before the fight for new gTLDs. To call what happened before the new gTLD program launch an "outreach to developing economies," would be delusional, at best.

The third part of the failure was the absence of any effort to build the necessary capacity of prospective applicants from developing economies. One does not go from being a local enterprise to an ICANN Registry without area specific skills that need to be taught or self learned over a long period of time. Unlike the players in residence at ICANN, possible applicants in developing economies had little lead time to develop the skills after learning of the opportunity, if they ever did hear of it.

This failure convinces me that before any other rounds, ICANN must develop a method for remediation for developing economies, especially communities in those developing economies.

Remediation will be a lot of work. Minimally it would require:

  • It would entail better understanding the problem; there is an At Large working group that is working on that.
  • It would involve capacity building in Registry and Registrar operations in developing economies.
  • It would require pro-bono pre-application mentoring, and
  • It would involve rock bottom pricing, possibly even free as the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) advised the board early in the current New gTLD program.

But this can be done. The new administration at ICANN has now built a formidable communications and outreach team. With guidance from the community, I am sure that ICANN can create a viable and successful remediation program for this new gTLD round. It would be a good thing.

One last thing, the time is now to start this work.

AfterNote – Until my recent resignation for personal reasons, I was chair of the At Large WG working on understanding the problem. I am currently a member of the GNSO Council, which will at some point review the new gTLD round which is still unfolding. The view expressed is mine and represents only my thoughts on leaving the At-Large working group and the things that I think are essential for ICANN to meet its obligations as a Corporation in the Global Public Good. In an earlier stint on the GNSO Council I was one of the vocal advocates of the "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom" strategy for new gTLDs. Well the bloom has started. Unfortunately the flowers are in a rather small part of the garden.

This post was originally published on Avri Doria's blog.

By Avri Doria, Researcher
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Any possibility ... John Levine  –  Jan 29, 2014 1:25 PM PDT

That people in less developed economies took a look at what a vanity TLD offers and decided that even with a discount, it would be a poor use of limited funds?

Of course there is a possiblity ... Avri Doria  –  Jan 29, 2014 5:32 PM PDT

but it is remote since there is no evidence that a significant portion of the world's IT folks ever knew about the opportunities.

And yes, a poor use of limited funds.  But the GAC advised it be free for these populations. And I am proposing, in a similar fashion, that the remediation program remove that possibility from the equation and perhaps use qualification techniques other than money to determine the worth of an applicant.  And that they do so before another round removes even more of the significant naming opportunities from the world's peoples and communities.

An accidental favor John Levine  –  Jan 29, 2014 5:47 PM PDT

In this case, I think ICANN accidentally did the developing world a favor by not providing free TLD applications.  Even if the application is free, every small gTLD I know (other than the rather unusual .XXX) is a money sink.

Back in 1996, before we realized that people would find stuff on the Internet using search engines, not the DNS, it seemed like specialized TLDs would sort of make sense. But now, after the failure of .PRO, the failure of .AERO, the failure of .TRAVEL, the failure of .MUSEUM, the failure of .TEL, the failure of .JOBS, the failure of .NAME, the failure of .MOBI, the failure of .COOP, the failure of .ASIA, and the rather debatable marginal acceptance of .CAT (where. due to the way it's implemented, no domain name spelled the proper Catalan way with accented vowels or ela geminada actually works), I have to wonder what millenium people are living in.

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