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Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou?

Thomas Barrett

On March 2, EnCirca launched its ProForwarding leasing service for .pro domains. When we launched the service, we were sure that the ProForwarding service would appeal to a segment of the internet community not being served well by other extensions: self-employed professionals and other small businesses. Based on the response we've received, it appears we were right.

It also caught the attention of ICANN and others, who accused us of "violating the spirit of .pro".

Does .pro even have a spirit? And if it does, who gets to decide what it is?

As the most active reseller of .pro since its launch in June, 2004, we can tell you categorically, there is no discernable spirit in the .pro domain.

What does "spirit" mean anyway? And how is it different from "intent"?

The word "spirit" does not appear in any of the ICANN contracts. So, we consulted a dictionary to better understand it: "Spirit: The actual though unstated sense or significance of something".

Close enough. So, spirit refers to something actual. Is this the same as intent? Obviously not. In the case of .pro, intent refers to what .pro was meant to be. If .pro had a spirit, it would be based on what has actually happened in the nine months since .pro launched.

In other words, spirit is analogous to personality. As a parent, I want my child's personality to be assertive, honest and gracious. Every parent has similar goals. We all try to push and pull the right levers that we think will produce the desired outcome for our child. If only it was so easy! But, like it or not, a personality will eventually emerge. Hopefully, we're happy with the result.

So it is with .pro. Through various policies and contracts, ICANN has tried to ensure certain characteristics will be represented in the "personality" of .pro. But ICANN can not control how the public will respond to these policies. In the end, the marketplace will decide .pro's personality.

Let's take a look at ICANN policy as it relates to .pro. Here are some representative examples of how the market has responded to .pro since it launched in June, 2004. The domains we use in this article have been altered to protect the privacy of their owners.

Law firms don't have a license in my state. How do we qualify for a .pro?

You list your law firm as the registrant and provide the credentials of an individual who works for the firm. Rest assured, the individual's privacy is protected and there is no way for the public to determine whose credentials were provided.

Can we register a law.pro or .pro domain as an investment?

Sure. You are not required to actually put your domain to use. If you decide to speculate, we suggest something that fits the .pro extension, but you are free to register anything you want.

OK. We registered cyberpunk.law.pro. Do we need to use it to offer legal services?

No. There are no restrictions concerning use.

Can we sell or lease our .pro domain to someone else?

Sure. .pro is no different than .com in this regard. Remember, the domain will still be subject to annual professional verification by the registry.

Can we register strings representing adult content?

Yes, although we would prefer you did not. But there are no prohibitions on string meanings or website content. In fact, the very first .pro domains were registered by a doctor for adult content.

I'm licensed as a lawyer and my wife is a doctor. Can we register meatball.pro to honor our favorite food?

Yes. As long you provide professional credentials from two different professions, you can register any second level strings you want.

Will anyone know what two professions meatball.pro is associated with?

Not unless you tell them. All that is known is that it is supported by two of the supported professions. Since .pro is intended to eventually support dozens of professions, it will be impossible for the public to determine which two professions are associated with the domain.

We actually want to use meatball.pro for our friend's restaurant. Is this OK?

Sure. As long as it is backed by two credentialed professionals, there are no requirements that it be used for either of the two professions the domain is associated with.

The education profession is not supported by ICANN yet but I notice some good education domains were registered months ago. How did this happen?

When it was launched nine months ago, it was decided that .pro would initially only support lawyers, doctors and accountants. So, for the past nine months, companies and individuals from these professions have been free to register .pro domains across all planned professions for .pro.

Is all of this legal?

Yes. All of the registrations and situations described above were easily foreseeable by ICANN and none of these registrations are prohibited by the language of the RegistryPro agreement. There are no contractual obligations on registrars to prohibit or police these registrations. And all of this was taking place prior to the introduction of EnCirca's ProForwarding service this month.

Should more guidelines be considered? Absolutely. For example, EnCirca has already developed its own acceptable use policy in absence of one from ICANN and will lobby to get it adopted by all ICANN registrars. We look forward to working with ICANN and RegistryPro on developing more guidelines for .pro.

But what about the spirit of .pro?

The spirit of .pro will be largely determined by those early adopters of .pro who make the commitment and investment necessary to develop and market their .pro domains. These pioneers might come from the ranks of the currently supported professions. Or might not.

EnCirca will continue to invest in new services for .pro and work closely with its customers to help them develop their .pro domain names. We realize our success is directly tied to their success in establishing .pro as a destination for professionals on the internet. Only then will a spirit for .pro start to emerge.

Tom Barrett
EnCirca, Inc.
Copyright 2005 EnCirca, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By Thomas Barrett, President - EnCirca, Inc
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Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Jothan Frakes  –  Mar 29, 2005 1:57 PM PDT

Tom, I respect you immensely for coming out with some public responses to the community on these issues.

Because of the broad reach of the message about second level domain names being available under .pro through Encirca.biz, not everyone who may read this may be skilled in the art interpreting of what you mean by 'two credentials'.

This, in essence means that it is necessary for the use and operation of meatball.pro to be supported by two credentialed third level .pro registrants, correct?

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Thomas Barrett  –  Mar 29, 2005 2:24 PM PDT

Jothan,

Maybe an example would help:

In order for meatball.pro to resolve, it needs to be associated with two third level domains in different professions.

For example:
sauce.cpa.pro and pasta.eng.pro could qualify.
These two domains will resolve only after professional credentials have been verified in each respective profession.

The association is made by comparing the registrant id of the three domains.

Then meatball.pro would resolve.

Tom

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Michael J. Silver  –  Mar 29, 2005 5:37 PM PDT

First, I'd like to applaud CircleID for having the integrity to provide a fair and open forum for the internet community. Second, I'd like to commend Mr. Barrett on his remarks concerning the spirit of PRO. I might go a step further in suggesting that whatever the spirit of PRO may turn out to be, it would not be served by allowing PRO to be run into the ground. Thank you, Mr. Barrett, for having the strength and courage to think outside the box. You have potentially saved the investments of many hardworking individuals around the world and performed a great service for the internet community at large.

Michael J. Silver, Esq.

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Gregory Krajewski  –  Mar 29, 2005 11:01 PM PDT

I would personally like to thank Tom Barrett for being as agressive as he has been trying to explain Encirca's ProForwarding service.  Many people would like to see Encirca's new service fail, and for the life of me I do not understand why.  Yes, you can disagree with a new concept, but to go out of your way to "kill it" without discussion is a bad idea.

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? hodgepodge  –  Mar 31, 2005 7:12 AM PDT

Some predictions for .pro

1. In response to ICANN's request to admend the contract, RegistryPro will say "no thanks"

2. A year will pass and ICANN will finally agree to remove the restrictions on second level .pro to "foster competition" and "offer consumers and businesses another option for the internet"

Let's move on.

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? John Furrier  –  Mar 31, 2005 10:30 AM PDT

Tom,
I support your views.  Innovation and good service is key. 

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Daniel R. Tobias  –  Mar 31, 2005 6:44 PM PDT

Ten years ago, Network Solutions violated the spirit of the original gTLDs by dropping the ball on enforcing their intended purpose, leading to the current crazy-quilt where lots of nonprofits improperly use .com addresses.  Newer restricted TLDs were designed to avoid such problems by having well-defined purposes that were intended to actually be enforced, unlike the older TLDs.  What EnCirca is doing with .pro is violating the spirit of these rules, even if they manage by a technicality to be within the letter of them.

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Daniel R. Tobias  –  Mar 31, 2005 6:58 PM PDT

I see that EnCirca is actually threatening to sue a blogger who dared to write the truth about them:

http://blog.lextext.com/encircaletter.pdf

Apparently, freedom of speech and press are no more compatible with the agenda of this sinister company than the integrity of a restricted TLD.

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Michael J. Silver  –  Apr 02, 2005 10:27 AM PDT

Mr. Tobias,

With regard to your latter comment, wherein it would appear that you are posting as news comes in one end and thoughts leave the other, you should know that the blogger to whom you are making reference has resorted to censorship as means of swaying public opinion. That same blogger had also made some highly irresponsible comments apart from those cited in Encirca's letter that at best straddle the line between opinion and libel. I also must take issue with your use of the word sinister. Even if one were to accept some of your comments as being true, use of the word sinister would not be appropriate, is otherwise inflammatory, and only tends to undermine your credibility. In the future, you would best serve the public interest by speaking to matters in a more timely fashion and with more forethought. That said, I do commend you for not hiding behind an alias in the process of voicing a minority opinion. That is something which has been severely wanting in these discussions. We may not agree on PRO matters, but I do respect the hell out of that. I thank you.

Michael J. Silver, Esq. 

Re: Spirit of .Pro, Where Art Thou? Engineer  –  Apr 12, 2005 3:59 PM PDT

Tom:

Tom, You are an really out there dude.  You go ahead and allow someone to register f**k.pro knowing full well that the .pro domain is intended for lawyers.  Don't you see that this whole issue is going to be tied up in lawsuits for years.  I hope you realise that you're going to spend the next ten years in court fighing ever single atorney who registered a .pro domain!  And it's all your fault.

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