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  • Jeff Neuman

Opinion: Why have I not given up on New gTLDs?

Updated: Jan 20

It has already started. "Why are we rushing towards another new round of gTLDs?", "Why even have more TLDs when most of the ones from 2012 were "failures"? "Why don't we just just let innovation happen on Web 3 domains?" "Why am I still doing this after so many years?"


Lets take these one at a time.


1. Why are we rushing towards another new round of gTLDs


It has been more than 11 years since the last round of new gTLDs opened and nearly a decade has past since the first "new gTLD" was launched. In those 11 years since opening the last round we have had "Gangnam Style" come on and off the scene, the passing of the great Nelson Mandela, the Ice Bucket challenge, diversity added to emojis, Brexit, a full second term of President Obama, the Donald Trump presidency, half of the Biden Presidency (thus far) the the Global Pandemic and the development and release of completely new vaccines to name a few of the things. Lyft began operations, Microsoft Surface was introduced, DoorDash, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Ring Doorbell, Netflix Original Movies, Tinder, Instacart, Robinhood, the Apple Watch, SpaceX, Peloton, Slack, Coinbase, SnapChat, and TikTok all launched after the new gTLD application window opened and closed.


In the ICANN world, with respect to new gTLDs, there was a Discussion Group of the GNSO to create a new rounds issue report (2015), a final issue report on Subsequent Procudures (2015),an independent Rights Protection Mechanism Review report (2015), a Final Report on Mitigting the Risk of DNS Namespace Collisions by JAS Global Advisors (2015), an ICANN internal new gTLD Program Implementation report produced (2016), ,a Global Consumer Survey (2016), a Statistical Analysis of DNS Abuse in gTLD report (2017), a Root Stability study (2017), an Indpendent Review of the Trademark Clearinghouse (2017), a Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review Team report (2018), a Name Collision Analysis Project commenced (2018), a Rights Protection Mechanisms Phase 1 PDP Report reviewing the new gTLDs rights protection mechanisms (2020), a Final Report on the new gTLD Subsequent Procuedrues Policy Development Policy (2021), the commencement of an expedited policy development process on Internetationalized Domain Names (2021-present) an Operational Development Phase Scoping Document (2021), , Name Collision Alalysis Study 1 published (2021), a Final Report from the ePDP on Specific Curative Rights Protections for International Governmental Organizations (2022), and finally a New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Operational Design Assessment (2022)


But yeah, this whole thing has been rushed, right? Next question......


2. "Why even have more TLDs when most of the ones from 2012 were "failures"?


This is what we hear the most. But they are generally from domain name industry insiders that have an interest in protecting their existing assets or from those that benefit greatly from the artificial scarcity of top-level domains. We also hear this from some intellectual property specialists that bear the burden of protecting their clients' trademarks and have more of a burden with each launch of a new TLD.


To them I say.....Who are you to judge the success or failure of the new gTLD Program? We shouldn't judge the success or failure of TLDs in terms of numbers of registrations or what the resale value of second level domains are within a TLD. For even if there is one registrant that depends on a domain name registered on a new gTLD domain name extension for their business or livelihood, then who are we to ever described that gTLD as a failure. Who are we to tell that registrant that their whole life's work is on a "failed" domian space. At the end of the day, we launch new registries for them and if the gTLD is secure, works, and does what the end users expect it to do, then all other opinions are just that....opinions.


New gTLDs were created, and are created, to give consumers a choice. The new gTLD Program is about removing the artificial barriers that exist in the creation of new TLDs while at the same time protecting consumers and preserving the safety and security of the Internet. It was not put in place to appease the existing market or preserve competitive advantages for existing registries, registrars, domain name investors, or frankly anyone that is ever likely to read this. The addition of new gTLDs will not negatively impact the security and stability of the Internet. But the failure to allow a competitive market for the addition of new gTLDs will only benefit the incumbents.


Some argue that the new gTLD program has been a failure because not enough has been done by ICANN to promote the existence of new gTLDs. However, it is not ICANN's responsibility to promote the awareness of domain name extensions. They have a job to help the golbal community understand that there are domain name extensions and how to endure global interoperability (including Universal Acceptance), but their job is not the be the marketing arm of the registries, registrars, resellers or domain name investors.


And, its not ICANN's job to ensure that all domain name registries, registrars or resellers survive and flourish. In fact, we all need to accept the fact that the voluntary withdrawal of TLDs by their owners does not represent the failure of the new gTLD Program, but rather the success of a competitive marketplace where not every entrant can succeed.


Conversely, it is also not ICANN's job to artifically restrain a competitive market simply to protect the existing players. In short, its not ICANN's job to stand in the way of the continuation of the new gTLD Program, but rather to preserve the way forward in a manner that protects users and to provide a bottom up multistakeholder model for the development of policy that further protects und users.


3. Why don't we just just let innovation happen on Web 3 domains?


First of all "Web 3 domains" or "Blockchain domains" or "decentralized domains" are not really domain names at all. A domain name by definition is one that resolves through the domain name system (DNS). Web 3 domains do not use the DNS natively. With appropriate resolvers in theory they can, but Web 3 names themselves are not part of the DNS. Therefore, I will simply call them Web 3 names.


At this point, Web 3 names have very little functionalty and generally require plug-ins or other software to work in the major browsers. Web 3 names cannot yet be used with any major applications and though millions have been "taken", they are all speculative in nature.


Without demeaning Web 3 names, all that can be said at this point is that they have none of the protections of the domain name system. There is no way to contact the owners of these names, no way to find out who they are, no way to take down infringing or otherwise harmful content, and no regulatory environment with rules that are meant to be followed. Those that buy and sell Web 3 names are completely unregulated. Web 3 names are not recognized by any governmental body nor do they have any legitimacy from most people outside of their Web 3 ecosystem.


These names rely on pretty cool technology, but that technology does not need so-called Web 3 names. There are ways to integrate their technologies but at the same time use the existing DNS. Without any rules of the road, and the fact that there is no one to generally hold accountable, it does not fare well on the future adoption of those names.


4. Why am I still doing this after so many years?


I had a decent answer to this question, but scraped it in favor of a simple .... TBD.



picture courtesy of TechCrunch at https://techcrunch.com/2012/06/13/icann-applicants-for-new-tlds-revealed-the-full-list/


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