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The Battle for ".nyc": Is RFP the Answer?

Constantine Roussos

New York City government officials announced that they will be applying for the ".nyc" top-level domain (TLD) extension and are looking to choose a qualified vendor to operate the TLD on their behalf.

New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to try to find a qualified vendor to manage and market the city TLD in hope that they can raise more revenues for the city, to help local small businesses, promote tourism and help extend the branding image of NYC.

"Each day, the Internet serves as an essential tool in the lives of an increasing number of New Yorkers, helping inform the ways they live, learn and play," said Paul Cosgrave, the city's commissioner at the DoITT. "Through .nyc, we hope to make the search for New York City-related content easier than ever by providing individuals, organizations, non-profits and others a chance to own a virtual piece of the greatest city in the world."

"A top-level city needs a top level domain, that's why finding a partner to join the city in making .nyc a reality for small businesses in New York is vitally important," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Once the .nyc program is launched, local business owners will be able to uniquely associate themselves and their business with their home, and the NYC brand."

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numerals (ICANN), the governing body that charters new TLD names for the Internet, requires official municipal city or country government support in order to process city or country TLD applications. The issue becomes whether the applicant chosen via RFP will fulfill are application requirements and be accepted by ICANN.

NYC officials have announced that the DoITT TLD RFP is due by Nov. 12. The city will look over all applicants and select the best candidate to become the vendor. Is the city knowledgeable enough about the Internet to make the best possible decision on the applicant? Will this RFP pave way to a new complex way for other big players to select applicants in TLD applications?

The question remains. What if the applicant chosen does not meet all ICANN requirements and is rejected? If RFPs become a pre-ICANN application mandate by market leaders does it mean they will indefinitely win out? Be careful what you wish for. What if the Consumer Electronics Association decides to go for .electronics, implements an RFP and the winner of the RFP loses the ICANN bid because another applicant was better suited? I can see a scenario where RFP losers could win the ICANN nod of approval. Just because you win an industry-related RFP would not guarantee you success. The underlying issue here is whether the RFP issuer understands the Internet industry enough to make a strong decision.

In the case of .nyc, there seems to be quite a few applicants. Dot NYC LLC is one initiative that even enlisted former Mayor Koch as an endorser. Another initiative is undertaken Paul Garrin, who runs names.space, an alternate DNS operator. Garrin even contends that no one can buy .nyc, because his company, name.space, owns it and he is not willing to sell it.

"It's nothing new," he said of the city's announcement. "It tells me what we already knew — that the city doesn't have the way to do this and is looking for a partner in this. ... In any case, if the city wants a partner, they can have one — and that's us. We own the domain."

I remember a company called dotWorlds.net that operated an alternate DNS network. They used to charge users to own any domain extensions they wanted, even .usa. Does dotWorlds.net own .usa? I am not sure what happened to that company but their site is down and have had numerous complaints over the years for deceiving users. I am not sure about name.space but it seems that is quite a stretch to say that Garrin owns any TLD ever imagined because his ocmpany runs an alternate DNS network that is not monitored by any authority and runs as a monopoly. Will he take legal action against the city if he loses? Will he take legal action against ICANN if .nyc gets awarded to someone else? Seems all alternate DNS network providers will keep on complaining since ICANN will expand the Internet and make new TLDs and IDNs a reality. In the case of Garrin I have to express my discontent on his "hypothesis" which is unfounded. He also claims other TLDs in his alternate DNS network which also includes the .music TLD. So let me get this straight. Does Garrin own all rights to .music as well? If his claim holds true then it means he has rights to every sought-after generic TLD. Unfortunately for Garrin, his claim that he owns .nyc is a pipe dream.

Who is the best fit for the .nyc RFP? Is it the revenue-generation approach or is it the civic approach? Thomas Lowenhaupt, another .nyc applicant contends:

"Our mission is to educate residents, neighborhoods, civic organizations, community government and small businesses on ways to make the .nyc T.L.D., and the 'Net, an integral part of their existence," Lowenhaupt said. "With the recent R.F.P. looking at .nyc as a short-term plug for the coming budget gap, rather than as an opportunity to invest in infrastructure for a digital era, I'm not certain there will be a role for a thoughtful development of the T.L.D., for education, or for us. But we've not made a final decision."

I seem to agree with Thomas Lowenhaupt that the chief goal of the TLD should not be one of generating as much monies as possible for the city. I believe the city should focus on what is best for its community, in other words NYC, as opposed to what is best for their wallets. I take .la as a clear example. Marketed as "Los Angeles" in spite of its Laos roots, the TLD has not been an overwhelming success for Los Angeles natives. I have lived here for over a decade and have yet to see a .la being used. Not only is the extension expensive to buy, it also has limited exposure recognition in the city of Los Angeles. The .la extension was set up for one reason: to generate revenues regardless whether Laos citizens or Los Angeles natives use it.

Be careful for what you wish for. The best candidate in my opinion is the one with application that benefits as well as represents the whole NYC community, municipality and ensures that the city's people and visitors are best represented. The opportunity cost of maximizing profits as a chief goal for selection might bring the opposite result: another .la

By Constantine Roussos, Founder of DotMusic
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