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ICANN Regional Meeting and More Questions on nTLDs

Congratulations and thanks to ICANN for hosting the North America Regional meeting at the Sheraton in downtown Toronto, Canada. This event was done first class and was in my opinion a highly successful meeting (h/t to Afilias for sponsoring the “Blue Jays” vs. “Red-Sox” baseball game at Rogers Centre—it was a blast).

At this regional ICANN meeting many interesting topics were covered. Some topics though not at the foremost of my mind, surprisingly were not only highly interesting but very informative. The topics were:

  • ICANN Policy
  • Terminated Registrar Transition Process
  • New generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)
  • Contractual Compliance
  • Registry/Registrar Dialogue
  • Update on the Registrar Constituency
  • Security Issues
  • National Cyber Forensic Training Alliance (NCFTA) & FBI

Among all the topics, the new TLD process continues to dominate mind share as expected. Specifically for nTLDs, my take away from the meeting in Toronto, was that the next draft guidebook for applicants should be ready prior to the ICANN meeting in Seoul in late October. So it looks like full steam ahead for nTLDs!

With so many TLDs (estimate 100 - 200 plus) presumably in queue for filing (.food, .wine, .blog, .movie, .eco ...), I would really like to get some insight on how these new TLDs will be introduced. Moreover, if applications are to be approved in batches, in what order will these approved TLDs be released and in what groupings. Questions that come to mind are:

  1. Will there be a specific order in which new TLDs are launched?
  2. If yes, what is the criteria in determining launch order? Will the criteria be open and reviewable?
  3. If there is no order and it becomes “Launch whenever ready”, what potential confusion could there be to the market if too many nTLDs are released in the same month? How will the market be able to compensate this?
  4. Other open questions? YES!

A License to Print Money

One big lesson everyone is learning now from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, is that free money is not free. The loosening of restrictions in the housing market (anyone could get a house or borrow against their home) let the unqualified to buy and borrow, which in the end (when they couldn’t pay their debts) started the collapse of the house market. In some ways, there are parallels in the way we are treating nTLDs.

Not to say the applicants for nTLDs are not qualified, but more importantly, to point out the fact that running a successful registry today is increasingly more difficult. The days of simply opening a registry and seeing millions of registrations are long gone. Yes the days of “printing money” in my opinion are over, unless you have a unique concept.

I believe our industry is projecting the idea that running a registry is easy; no experience necessary, work only a little, make big money! Without giving applicants a dose of the operational reality of running a successful registry, we are only increasing the chances of having more of them fail. When enough nTLDs fail, just like the housing bubble burst, everyone will get hurt.

By Robert Birkner, Chief Strategy Officer, HEXONET GmbH

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