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ICANN, the New gTLD Program, and Our Responsibility for the Internet

When ICANN approved the New generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program in Singapore in June 2011, it pushed the activities in this space to a new level. I think we will all agree that everyone involved are very busy working on new gTLD applications and getting organized per the Applicant Guidebook requirements. This to be ready in time for the 12th of January 2012 ICANN new TLD Program launch date.

However, good activities also brings along bad activities. And while not always intended as doing something harmful to the Internet or it’s users, we have seen a tendency of our community to be attractive to some, that work to find a way around the system. Sometimes this is understandable taking the various business models, and the need of consumers into consideration. But that is not always the case. This is what makes it so hard for ICANN to build good, useful, strong, and at the same time reasonable policies.

What concerns me is that if we do not get the first round of introductions of new gTLDs right next year we might cause a lot of damage to the Internet. The intent with all the new gTLDs is of course consumer choice, and to allow for innovations beyond the traditional domain name space. We cannot afford allowing bad intended (purposely or not) entities to destroy this development.

I have never been a proponent of unlimited number of new gTLDs because I simply do not believe that it will be overall beneficial for Internet users. I accept that change is necessary to move forward and we do not know how the Internet will look a few years down the road (after all at its early development, who would have imagined it to be as impactful as it is today?). I just don’t see the unlimited numbers/non-restricted approach being of value unless it is managed carefully. I have written about these concerns before in a post called “How to Make IDN gTLDs Attractive and Safe in ICANN’s New Internationalized Domain Name TLD Program.”

That brings me to the core of this article. I believe we all have a responsibility to work together to make this radical change of the Internet a positive experience for its users. This article is intended to spark a debate on the subject.

If we do not do a good job with the first round, we risk experiencing endless lawsuits, auctions, and unstable launches under new gTLDs. Some of the new gTLDs are likely to fail which will provide an even worse user experience. This will be a waste of a lot of resources and time for all of us, and it will likely result in no second round or at the very least a very delayed and very difficult second round. This should be in nobody’s interest. In the end, the only losers are Internet users; they will experience the bad service; dropped TLDs and hence domain names; high prices (because we need to cover legal and auction costs somewhere), and so on. Imagine having a non-functional domain name because of the hundred’s or thousand’s TLDs you had to choose from, the one you picked could not manage its responsibility. Imagine incurring double, triple, or higher domain name registration costs because two applicants spent a significant amount of their financial resources in an auction for the TLD and are left with no recourse but to raise prices in order to recover those losses. This is not a way to instill confidence in users of the Internet.

So what can we do to ensure that this round goes well? I almost wanted to suggest that we put together a “Best Practice New gTLD Behavioral” paper. But that might not be something we could agree on, or that the ICANN community would be interested in participating in?

At MyTLD we took one initiative recently, which is the free IDN training for IDN TLD applicants in need. This initiative is particularly focused on the expansion of developing economies, which ICANN has an ongoing targeted effort at the moment as indicated in the recently closed ICANN public comments forum about assisting developing nations.

Why we are providing free training, and suggested to ICANN to build this into an ongoing program with free overall DNS training for applicants in need, should be obvious. But if in doubt please see my ICANN blog post on the New Generation of Internet users. I believe we have a responsibility to do this, and thereby take one step in making the Internet available and well-functional for the next generations to come.

What else can we do? Please take a moment and think about it. We should feel very fortunate about the Internet experience we have accumulated over the last decade or so. Handing over knowledge and expertise to the next generation is not solely delivering the Internet as we have it today, but also doing so in a way that will create the foundation for the future of the Internet. This is after all how knowledge and innovation has increased and thrived for years.

So for all of us involved in new TLDs, let’s do something good. Contribute something that will have a positive impact for years to come.

By Tina Dam, Co-Founder MYTLD

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Good ideas. At the end, we're Ram Mohan  –  Aug 3, 2011 2:12 PM

Good ideas.  At the end, we’re really trustees of the domain name space, and it’s our joint responsibility to give back to the community.

Count me in to help…

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