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Your Comments Front and Center in ICANN New gTLD Process

ICANN published the second version of its Application Guidebook for new generic top-level domains earlier today (late evening Los Angeles time).

Alongside version two of the Guidebook—published by module and in a red-line version—are explanatory memoranda, the opening of a second public comment period (closing 13 April) and an extensive summary and analysis of the public comments made to the process so far.

What I would like to bring the community’s attention though is that from the main announcement—Draft Applicant Guidebook: What You Told Us—to the second comment period, to the summary/analysis of comments, it is you and your comments that are front and center in this process.

There were some suggestions earlier this year that ICANN would ignore public comments. ICANN staff have since try to reassure the community that that is not the case but actions speak louder than words so this announcement, the approach taken and the work attached to it should hopefully put that argument to rest.

So if you are interested in this process of expanding the domain name space and you want to make sure it is done in the best way possible, please do review the documents and send in your views and suggestions.

And just to remind people: we have an online Question Box for the upcoming Mexico City meeting (1-6 March) so if you a question you would like to ask, particularly regarding the Applicant Guidebook, then this is a simple and easy way to ask it.

By Kieren McCarthy, Freelance journalist; Executive Director at IFFOR

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Your comments were ignored, unless you are a registry operator George Kirikos  –  Feb 19, 2009 6:12 PM

As noted in my article posted today, ICANN has definitely ignored the comments of the public. Even the comments of the NTIA/DOJ were ignored. That is why, for example, registry operators are seeing even more favourable contract terms (e.g. lower fees), yet registrants continue to face the risk of tiered pricing not only for domains in new gTLDs, but also for existing gTLDs like .com/net/org/biz/info.

Actual contracts speak louder than ICANN’s attempts to pretend that they are listening. And the actual contracts are just as bad, if not worse, than before.

When Microsoft, for example, made it very clear that they oppose new gTLD introduction, and that it’s likely to threaten DNS security and stability (see page 35 of the Comments Summary, it takes a lot of chutzpah to pretend that their comments were reflected in the new contracts. Those new contracts say “Full steam ahead, new gTLDs are coming whether you want them or not.”

The only good thing is that no new gTLDs will come into effect before the September 2009 expiry of the JPA. Now the public can concentrate their efforts on the people that matter, namely the DOC/NTIA/DOJ, instead of an ICANN that is deaf to the public (except for registry operators).

Very clear explanation Kieren McCarthy  –  Feb 19, 2009 6:29 PM

There is a very clear explanation in the announcement about this. It says: "There have been a number of overarching issues raised in the comment process that require further work and so remain unchanged in this draft. Those issues are: * Trademark protection * Security and stability * Malicious conduct * Demand and economic analysis" To stress: "require further work and so remain unchanged in this draft". The reason why there are not changes on these areas at this point is because more work needs to be done on them. This is actually the opposite of your "full steam ahead" suggestion. If changes were made, it would cause people to focus on the changes themselves rather than the overarching issues that need to be worked on and resolved. I hope this answers your concerns. Kieren

More obfuscation by ICANN George Kirikos  –  Feb 19, 2009 7:05 PM

Nice try, but that's simply saying "trust us, we'll take care of those issues later." I encourage folks to re-read the analysis and comments of the NTIA/DOJ. Page 1 says "ICANN needs to complete this economic study and the results should be considered before new gTLDs are introduced." If ICANN was listening, instead of spin-doctoring, they would have published the comments analysis, and simply delayed introduction of a 2nd Guidebook until the economic studies were completed and considered by the public. Instead, ICANN is trying to do them in parallel, which will result in a rushed economic study that will likely be used to justify whatever ICANN has already decided to do, rather than truly be independent and shape a guidebook that the public supports. The DOJ letter (part of the same PDF above) said that "ICANN should revise its general approach to give greater consideration to potential consumer harms and benefits." They specifically mention price caps, price discrimination, bundling and tying. They mention perpetual renewal. And they specifically state that "prospective gTLD operators compete for the privilege of operating a particular gTLD by offering terms that benefit consumers. Effectively implementing such a process would require that ICANN evaluate bids from the perspective of the benefits they provide consumers, not merely the amount bidders are willing to pay to ICANN for the right to operate the gTLD." (emphasis added) You tried to suggest that certain issues "require further works and so remain unchanged in this draft." Not only that, but you said "To stress" in your comment above. However, take a look at the words in the announcement itself, in particular Module 4:

Included auctions as mechanism of last resort (including rules and procedures); described how a foundation would be employed to distribute funds accruing from an auction;
This certainly doesn't sound like ICANN "leaving things unchanged." ICANN is not only pushing auctions, it's already planning a foundation to "spread the wealth around" in ways it sees fit. That's the exact opposite of what the DOJ proposed, namely competitive tenders where prospective registry operators compete to see who can deliver the services at the lowest cost to consumers. ICANN had a choice to "leave things unchanged," but they actively made these changes, for ICANN's own benefit (i.e. more funds directed to itself, which it can decide how to allocate via another boondoggle foundation). These are not benefits flowing to consumers in the form of lower prices, but are instead higher benefits flowing to ICANN's coffers in the form of higher fees. If "Demand and economic analysis" is something ICANN is supposedly waiting on, how did they then already decide to lower registry fees? In conclusion, stop trying to hoodwink people who may have not read the documents. You make yourself look foolish. "To stress", in your own words, changes have been made where you say they shouldn't have been. In your own words, these items obviously would in your eyes not "require further work", yet to the public they are outrageous changes, exactly the opposite of what they proposed.

Second comment period Kieren McCarthy  –  Feb 19, 2009 8:02 PM

Thanks for your feedback George, I hope you will take advantage of the second comment period to make your views known. Kieren

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