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The Web is Dead: What This Means to ICANN, New gTLD Program and the Domain Industry

While we are spending years figuring out how to create the perfect generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) launch and guidebook, the Internet is moving along at an extraordinary pace without any care about ICANN policy-making. The fact of the matter is ICANN is a ghost to the ordinary person or Internet company. You can not imagine how many times I had to explain what ICANN is, what ICANN does and why ICANN is important.

While the Internet is moving along with exciting innovations and new platforms of communication, ICANN is still working at dinosaur pace, still playing catch up and still not aligning the realities of the Internet to policy-making. Interest groups, corporate monopolies, politics and conflicts of interest still rule supreme.

Chris Anderson, the editor of Wire Magazine, in a recent front-page Wired article called “The Web is Dead” proclaims that the world wide web is dead and we are experiencing the beginning of the next generation of the Internet. Anderson explains:

“Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services—think apps—are less about the searching and more about the getting. You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad—that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times—three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service. You’ve spent the day on the Internet—but not on the Web. And you are not alone.”

The reality of the matter is that the web is not quite dead yet. It is evolving. Devices are becoming more and more important than ever before. Mobile devices have paved way for the app revolution. These apps do not reside on the web but on the Internet for the purpose of creating a better user experience for the consumer as well as creating “closed” and “controlled” economies bound by distribution gatekeepers. This might be the beginning of the death of the “open” web as we see it. The move away from Flash programming in mobile devices in favor of non-web-based applications illustrates the gradual move away from a web-centric Internet, but the reality of the matter is that the Web will continue to exist given the human need for open-access to information and connecting with like-minded communities or social networks.

One point is certain. ICANN is wasting precious time trying to create a perfect solution in regards to new gTLDs. Can ICANN predict the future? No-one thinks so, but ICANN’s propensity to solve any possible problem that might arise is clouding the process itself. ICANN is well-equipped and capable of dealing with any secluded abuse that might arise and react to any potential future issue. ICANN is losing its prime focus and is distancing itself from real task at hand which is no other than to introduce innovation and competition in the domain space and expand the Web.

The odds against new entrants are high. However, ICANN still insists on archaic concepts such as not allowing new registries to engage in free-trade, be able to sell direct as well as be flexible to introduce their own innovations. The self-proclaimed ICANN Business Constituency that should be all about free-trade claims that free trade is a terrible idea for new registry entrants and keeping the monopolistic, restrictive and anti-business regime at bay with the status quo is the best option for businesses. The ICANN Business Constituency that alleges to represent small-business interest and open, free markets is what your typical economist will call an oxymoron that is inconsistent with the modern economic framework of business practices. Does it have credibility? None whatsoever. I can only imagine what happens behind closed doors for a Business Constituency to oppose free trade for new entrants.

While the Internet moves towards a new direction, ICANN stands and ponders on issues that delay innovation, competition and the expansion of the Web. Big brand holders are still complaining about implementing more trademark mechanisms or further improving the existing ones that were created to please them. Why is ICANN wasting more time with that? Is there a method to retrieve your trademarked domain if someone else is abusing it? Yes. ICANN has gone beyond what is necessary. Will new gTLDs introduce more harm or benefits to the Internet society? If ICANN is all about open-access, free trade, competition, fairness and represent the Internet community, it has to align itself with what is happening in the Internet space today and not be stuck in the ‘90s.

The Web is not perfect. The big brands and corporations that ICANN seeks to protect who are delaying everything are not perfect. For example, the Web has been used by companies such as Google and Internet Service Providers to piggyback on intellectual property issues. What ICANN is dealing with in regards to implementing additional trademark mechanisms is tiny in regards to the harm that has been inflicted by many corporations that are regarded as the “backbone” of the Web. Google and major ISPs have been piggypacking intellectual property owners for their own profit and not much has been done about it. Both Google and the ISPs have been profiting from the unauthorised distribution of copyrighted works. Google makes money and generates traffic so they do not care about intellectual property. The ISPs get paid higher fees from consumers wanting higher bandwidth to download illegally at faster rates. Rampant piracy translates to billions of dollars of profits. 95% of music on iPods is illegal. Apple knows that but their marketing is clear: fit tens of thousands of songs on your iPod (irrespective if its illegally downloaded or not).

The Internet is dominated by many corporations who really have no respect for intellectual capital. If ICANN wants to make a difference that matters in Intellectual Property, then perhaps they need to be involved with other more significant issues that affect the Internet. If they are responsible for implementing trademark mechanisms for TLDs, then why not actually make a difference where it counts and where copyright holders are suffering from piracy, which has cost many their jobs? The trademark issues that will arise from new TLDs are insignificant if compared with the harm inflicted by piracy to copyright holders. My point is that ICANN has done enough to appease the trademark community. They are offered the trademark mechanisms to solve cybersquatting, even though the potential harms are expected to be tiny in comparison (if any). Copyright holders do not enjoy such benefit because of the very nature of the Web and its chaotic openness. I thought Rod Beckstrom understood this concept. I did after-all I read his book. Action is needed now, not just mere words.

With the Internet moving away from the Web, the repercussions to the domain industry will be felt. Domain name parking will become obsolete and the astronomical prices that premium, one-word .COM domains sell for will fall significantly and industry will experience less million-dollar domain name sales. There is no better time to sell your domain portfolio than right now unless you are developing it or unless you believe that apps and mobile devices with proprietary, closed ecosystems is not a reality.

ICANN needs to finally get the new TLD program launched without any further delays. The delays are unwarranted given the very few issues that are left such as Vertical Integration, pricing on bulk same-translated strings and establishing a better and fairer point system for community applicants that will also prevent abuse.

Unless ICANN shares Chris Anderson’s viewpoint that the Web is dead, ICANN has to finally acknowledge the financial harm and opportunity costs that all the delays have inflicted to all applicants that have been clinging to ICANN timing promises to launch their respective TLD. The Web depends on it since it is shrinking. Time to join forces with the new Internet economy and space. It is time to expand the Web and introduce new complementors to the Internet: new TLDs.

By Constantine Roussos, Founder of DotMusic

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