[At-Large] gTLD Review Group decisions regarding the comments by IT for Change, India

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Thu Oct 11 16:54:10 UTC 2012

Hi Parminder,

Comments inline

On 11 October 2012 10:28, parminder <parminder at itforchange.net> wrote:

> I am not sure whether a gTLD review group does exist at present,
> and proposes to do something, or not.

Well, it does exist, but so far it has yet to receive any comments that
meet the criteria for escalation to an ALAC formal objection as defined in
the applicantion process. Yours -- amongst others -- was considered and
rejected for reasons that I believe were clearly and adequately stated.

Now, whether the issues you raised are ripe for discussion in the broader
ALAC new-gTLD working group -- the one Avri chairs -- is still pending.
Should the debate move there I welcome the opportunity for a spirited
rebuttal to most of your assertions, along the lines of my original
response to your letter.

> Although [Avri] did clarify a few days back, there are new arguments on
> the list against continued examination of this issue.

Not quite. It is certainly possible to further discuss this issue as a
ongoing potential ALAC concern. But the process of soliciting comments, in
mind of making formal application objections, is very specific and now past
its due date.

There were two separate strings of response:

   - Whether the comments received weresuitable, and within scope, to
   escalate into a potential formal ALAC objection
   (That was what the Review Team, led by Dev, was supposed to evaluate)

   - Whether the points raised, on a more general level, should be
   considered on their merits for consideration as ALAC policy advice
   (that is within the realm of the working group that Avri chairs)

> I hear voices here claiming that the time for fighting for  this cause is
> over now.

Some causes are still worth fighting. Some were decided within the last
year, and some many decades ago.

While it is certainly possible to revisit any position, it's an unfortunate
fact that ICANN has pointed the domain-name infrastructure in directions
that are, at both philosophical and practical levels, impossible to
reverse. The doctrine that a domain name is a commodity rather than an
identity is IMO a particularly and fundamentally unfortunate path, but that
argument is long ago lost and impossible to win back without starting from
scratch. (And I ironically, I believe that some of the "private" domains
that cause concern to some are the best chance for a disruptive reboot in
that direction).

> Some of those who say so otherwise seem  to have sympathy for the
> proposition that 'private gTLDs' will be detrimental to public
> interest.

I certainly hope I'm not counted amongst the "some" mentioned there. I have
long been of the opinion that the gTLD expansion process is detrimental to
the public interest -- private, public, the lot of them. There is some good
in having new TLDs in scripts other than Latin, but beyond that the entire
expansion program claims to solve a problem -- by making it worse.

The communiqué from the first At-Large Summit describes the gTLD expansion
program as "unacceptable", and that the problems it identified at that time
went largely unanswered. (I would also note that the position stated above
was never formally withdrawn, and assert that most of At-Large's activities
in this realm have been in the form of damage-mitigation.)

It's my position that the gTLD program as a whole is poorly advised,
against the public interest and will ultimately fail -- but since it's
going ahead anyway, I will defend the emergence of "private" TLDs as,
indeed, the silver lining within this cloud, They offer the only potential
for public benefit (outside of IDNs) to be found within the expansion.

Note, I said "potential". The private TLDs could fail us too. But we
already know that the model used by the "public" ones have already failed
both end-users and legitimate providers of Internet content and services.

There appears to be an overly greater desire to safeguard a process (ICANN
> ?) than address the substantive issue on its merits,

As I said above, there are two separate issues -- the immediate one
regarding the objection process, and the larger one to be debated on the

The immediate one is over, so we're left to address the issue on its
merits, as you wish. There was never any intent to shy away from your
assertions -- on the contrary, I'm eager to confront them.

> especially when, in my view, the implications of the issue at stake
> are huge. In private conversations I find people, even among those
> centrally connected to ICANN, having varying degree of reservations about
> 'private gTLDs'.

To the extent that the domain industry -- fearful to protect the position
it has carefully built -- has worked to manufacture public opinion, you're
right. Indeed, this will get worse before it gets better. But merely having
such reservations does not mean that they are well-founded or indeed based
on any fact. The domain industry has itself tried to protect its private
interests by re-framing the issue as one of "public interest", and too many
have fallen for the bait. Such fear-mongering will eventually attract the
appropriate rebuttal, but not before making a lot of noise.

> As I read postings on this list I see a similar sentiment. Outside the
> ICANN circles of course I find almost universal dismay that such a thing
> can be done.

Funny, nobody expressed such hand-wringing when the words "museum", "name"
and "cat" were locked away some years ago. It seems that there is only
dismay when the words being fretted upon are considered to have significant
monetary value.

Why so much whinging about L'Oreal wanting the ".beauty" TLD, while nobody
has ever complained about the monopolization of "beauty.com" by an online
drugstore? Is the difference fundamental, or only one of degree? Have
L'Oreal, other beauty companies, or the public interest suffered because of
lack of direct third-party access to beauty,com? How does it serve the
public interest that "beauty.co.in" is locked away by a speculator,
presently unusable by *any* information provider?

Let's face some reality: The private right to control a common-language
word, by having enough money and/or being first to get it, has been a
founding philosophy of ICANN. It would be impossible to reject that without
complete re-invention of ICANN (*"That would be just fine with us", says
the ITU.*)

Second reality: *All* TLDs are private. You can't outright buy any domain
name, you can only rent it. Stop paying after the expiry date and someone
else -- maybe even a competitor -- gets your domain. Even at the top level,
each TLD registry has to pay an annual rental fee to ICANN else they lose
it. In this world, nobody owns anything except temporary rights (with the
partial exception of trademark holders). Even ICANN's own franchise is
granted by fixed-term contract and can be taken away.

In this context, the main difference between so-called "private" and
"public" TLDs is only in the manner of distribution; determining who gets
what. In "public" TLDs the determinations of who gets what are money and
trademarks; it is in the public interest to see how other distribution
models might work. What would be necessarily wrong with an *option*
(remember, there will be hundreds of "open" alternatives) of domain
allocation under a benign authority?

"Private" TLDs offer the potential to circumvent and disrupt the
conventional distribution chain, which is why the domain industry is
fighting against them.  I would suggest caution when conflating their
vested interests with the public's.

> I wonder, then, what kind of governance process can still be going ahead
> with possibly allowing 'private gTLDs' and how so many of the civil society
> participants in ICANN processes prefer to stand on ceremony rather than
> agree to have a thorough debate on and (re)consideration of the issue.

There is no hiding behind process going on here.

Some of our timing is governed by the processes set in place by others.
There was a specific matter about ALAC's ability to launch formal
objections about specific applications. Your comment did not meet the rigid
requirements to be escalated as a potential formal objection. That
time-sensitive part is over and done with.

But the ALAC has the bylaw-mandated freedom to comment on any issue at any
time. If you believe, going forward,  that there is valid reason for ALAC
to advance the domain industry's fears of disruption as a matter of public
interest, then I and others are happy to engage. So far, what I've heard
has been unconvincing.

1) Again I haven't read most generic name private gTLD applications


- Evan

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