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Market Forces Should Control Registry Services?

Sonia Arrison, a director of the Center for Technology Studies at the California-based non-profit Pacific Research Institute, writes an interesting op-ed piece in the Internet news publication CNET News.com. She argues that the job of privatizing the domain name system should be completed and that market forces should control registry services such as SiteFinder deployed by VeriSign for about three weeks in September.

"To be sure, ICANN has a board of distinguished experts, including Internet legend Vint Cerf. But while the organization is key in helping to establish complex technical standards, it often finds itself steeped in controversy over what many see as its overzealous urge for policymaking.

Part of ICANN's stated purpose is to develop policy through "private-sector, bottom-up, consensus-based means," but as most people know, consensus is often impossible and issues must be settled in other ways.

In Congress issues are settled by votes, and in the marketplace they are settled by the invisible hand. But the process at ICANN, as many have complained, often takes less palatable forms. This brings up the question of whether the organization is still the relevant vehicle for promoting competition and solving Internet policy problems.

It often finds itself steeped in controversy over what many see as its overzealous urge for policymaking. 
Recently, bureaucrats at the United Nations revealed their desire to take over ICANN's functions, but business and other policy leaders argue that it's time to finish genuine privatization of the domain name system. That the organization is facing increased pressure from these radically different viewpoints goes to show the inherent instability of its quasi-regulatory nature. The best solution in this case is to allow market forces to take over so decisions can be made in a more efficient and cooperative manner.

In the meantime, ICANN claims it has the authority to give VeriSign's lucrative business of registering and renewing .com, .net and .org domain names to someone else.

That's a big hammer, but ICANN shouldn't swing it. The organization should instead refocus its energy on finding ways to fulfill its mission that are more acceptable to the community it serves."

While not a position I would agree with, as I would prefer more government control and additional regulation, it is definitely insightful and well written. She makes some interesting quotes, such as, "Part of ICANN's stated purpose is to develop policy through 'private-sector, bottom-up, consensus-based means,' but as most people know, consensus is often impossible and issues must be settled in other ways."

By Doug Mehus, Personal Banker
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Re: Market Forces Should Control Registry Services? George Kirikos  –  Dec 02, 2003 2:12 PM PDT

There's a consensus against SiteFinder, and also against WLS. Consensus *is* possible to achieve — getting ICANN's inept board members to take their head out of the sand would be a step in the right direction, to recognize when the community consensus differs from their narrow and unrepresentative personal views (which are probably based on self-interest, in some cases).

Consensus does not mean 100% agreement, only a super-majority. Most of the bad ideas out there that can't reach a supermajority are unworthy of being implemented. That's a good thing.

As for market forces being allowed to operate, this doesn't work in the cases of monopolies. The first thing VeriSign would do, if not under reign, would be to jack up the prices of domains beyond $6/yr. If one wanted a "market-based" approach, they'd be auctioning them off every year. Is that what folks are arguing for, in the case of monopolies? Of course not — it's a public resource, and registries made proposals to operate them for a *reasonable* rate of return on invested capital. The benefits flow to consumers, who reap the consumer surplus.

Now, years after they squandered resources on foolish investments, some of these registries want a HIGHER than normal rate of return on invested capital, at the expense of consumer surplus? If they want that, they can compete in the unregulated consumer portion of the economy, but no way will folks want them adding more monopoly services, or abusing existing monopolies.

Re: Market Forces Should Control Registry Services? Prndll  –  Dec 02, 2003 2:31 PM PDT

"....government control....."
lol......ha!
If you really want to see things get really squirly and screwed up......give it to the government. Hasn't that been made completely obvious to everyone yet?

I'll go with market forces.....but, as a domain name holder....I say that the owners should have atleast some control or "say-so"

The only reason that things are happening that would make someone look at the government for solutions is that way too many people get online without any knowledge of what they are actually doing....too many people just don't care.

The internet needs to run as independantly as humanly possible. Government regulation will only serve to complicate things and introduce a level of control that brings this "Global" entity closer to socialism.

Re: Market Forces Should Control Registry Services? Mike O'Donnell  –  Dec 02, 2003 5:05 PM PDT

"Market Forces Should Control Registry Services?"

Of course they should. But Verisign's hijacking of unregistered domain names was not mediated by any market forces. It completely bypassed the market for domain name registration. The particular qualities of the SiteFinder hosts to which they redirected the hijacked domain names is not particularly relevant to the offense.

"ICANN claims it has the authority to give VeriSign's lucrative business of registering and renewing .com, .net and .org domain names to someone else."

I object to the phrase "VeriSign's lucrative business of registering and renewing ... domain names." VeriSign did not create the domain name system, and it has no claim to that business other than the license it acquired from ICANN. We may wish to appoint a DNS trustee other than ICANN, but VeriSign has absolutely no claim to authority.

Mike O'Donnell

Re: Market Forces Should Control Registry Services? Jane Clinton  –  Dec 03, 2003 11:00 AM PDT

That op/ed piece appears to have been written several weeks ago, when site finder was operating. It offers no new ideas. It's just a bit of pressure. Naive of anyone to reproduce it.

There's an argument to be made there but Sonia Arrison doesn't make it. Let's move on.

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