[At-Large] Registrars: The new travel agents? (was Re: [GTLD-WG] Amazon, Google And Others Going After Generics)

Bret Fausett bfausett at internet.law.pro
Fri Jun 15 19:10:34 UTC 2012


The enemy of your enemy isn't necessarily your friend. It's great that Amazon and others are entering this area, and it will indeed herald a new age of services for consumers. I hope you will read the applications and think about what they will mean for them though. The current registration industry may have many flaws, but bypassing them isn't necessarily better; we just may find ourselves exchanging one set of flaws for another. 

If Amazon makes domain names available under .SMILE, it will own all the second-level registrations. This certainly makes whois accuracy easy. Amazon will be your one point of contact for everything. I certainly expect that this will make life easier for law enforcement. If Amazon decides to make .SMILE names available to its users, they will use them solely at Amazon's pleasure under Amazon's terms of service. 

I would argue that highly distributed assets like we have under the current registration model provide more power and long-term stability to users who want to have ownership interests in their Internet assets. 

So now we may have a more diverse group of registration spaces, with highly distributed open models competing with single-registrant, highly controlled models. But the new model is like trading home ownership for a tenancy in an apartment building. Of course, if you have a benevolent landlord, you might never notice the difference.

Nevertheless, I hope you, and the rest of the ALAC, give the newcomers the same scrutiny you give to the applicants from the registration industry. 


> I think that the entrance of the Big Brands is the best possible
> "unintended consequence" of the TLD expansion for content providers and end
> users. It blows wide open the ICANN domain industry bubble and exposes it
> to the real world. Verisign goes from being the big guy in the room to one
> of the small ones. And the influx of radically different business models is
> indeed the introduction of true competition.
> New players in the domain space (such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and
> Apple) means:
>   - Who needs the middleman of registrars? All of them have their own well
>   established retail mechanisms, and registrars offer them no value that they
>   don't already have.
>   - Since these companies already have strong global Internet
>   infrastructures (and at least one has already been
> playing<https://developers.google.com/speed/public-dns/>with domain
> name infrastructures), they have no need for any of the service
>   providers who currently control the name space and think they control ICANN
>   - The Verisign "market power" problem evaporates, but for different
>   reasons than expected. (It wouldn't surprise me if they were a buyout
>   target soon)
>   - Registries who make their money from advertising, or data, or sales of
>   other things, will have the freedom to give away domains for free (and not
>   just in those cheesy hosting/domain-name bundles), or to lease/rent them as
>   needed
>   - The big brands will likely offer more stability and be more vigilant
>   (for example, about WHOIS data) than the status quo; they -- unlike ICANN
>   -- have corporate reputations, other business lines and valued government
>   relationships to protect
>   - At the registries that give away domains, there is no incentive for
>   domainers or speculators; as a result their namespace is far cleaner (and
>   genuine content providers are more likely to find the names they want), and
>   thus more trusted by end users than the domain-for-sale registries
>   - The free offerings at new registries will have a positive (to end
>   users and registrants) side-effect of dramatically lowering the value of
>   speculative domains in new AND existing registries (especially the ccTLDs
>   masquerading as gTLDs -- I'm looking at you, Colombia)
> Michele, you know I love you. But I think you're right to be concerned. If
> the rollout happens as you fear and I hope for, registrars face the same
> future as travel agents. But just as some travel agents still survive by
> servicing the hell out of clients and being far more than mere middleman in
> a financial transaction, so will be the case for registrars that thrive in
> ICANN's post-expansion era.
> I've always been cynical about the gTLD expansion because all I'd seen from
> it was ICANN's usual suspects engaging in their little power trips, shell
> games and speculation plays. And indeed many of the gTLD applications
> appear to indicate simply a higher-stakes form of domaining. But now that a
> bigger picture is emerging, I'm happier to see the expansion take place,
> and welcome the new big players into the family of registries.
> The gTLD expansion was at the outset a play mainly of pure greed and
> vanity, designed to satisfy demand that was mostly manufactured, or
> non-existent. It's gratifying to see the end results playing out in "be
> careful what you wish for" fashion.
> - Evan
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