Planned application procedure for new Top Level Domains criticised
There has been no shortage of criticism of the application procedures for new Top Level Domains (TLDs) at the meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Cairo this week. Too expensive, too slow and too unrefined in their details – these are the main points of criticism in connection with the proposals presented by the private internet administration group. While ICANN's President Paul Twomey emphasised from the start that the proposals aren't written in stone and that a second draft proposal for the application procedures is possible before the final version is completed, this announced intermediate step was criticised as yet another delay by the registries and registrars. ICANN's Vice President Kurt Pritz conceded that this could postpone the start of assignments until the third quarter of 2009.
After years of discussions, ICANN gave the go-ahead for the introduction of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) at the end of last June. At their meeting in Paris, ICANN's board of directors agreed on a concept developed by the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), responsible for generic TLDs at ICANN. Following an initial test round with new TLDs in 2000 and another smaller round with special purpose TLDs in 2004, the new proposal is to establish a regular procedure for the continued processing of applications for new address zones similar to .com, .biz or .cat, allowing almost arbitrary expressions to be used for Top Level Domains. However, no details about the application procedure, prices or registry procedures within the eventually approved domains were included when the decision about the introduction of the new TLD application process was made. A draft presented by ICANN at the end of October is to be the basis for the relevant decisions.
"We are worried that the whole thing is now going to take forever", said a representative for the planned .nyc city TLD at the ICANN meeting in Cairo. He said that in the meantime, applicants who may for years have been preparing for the opening of the TLD space, continue to meet the incurred running costs. Other observers are concerned that new addresses could only become available for addition to the root zone and marketing by 2010. If ICANN is to re-analyse the procedures after the new round in the approval process, the next "round" or the promised open procedure for allowing continuous applications, could they fear, once again be shifted into the future. Werner Staub, the secretary of CORE, the Internet Council of Registrars, warns "Once the engine has been stopped it takes two to five years to get back into gear".
Staub also criticised that ICANN intends to differentiate strictly between open TLDs and those for special target groups. He said applicants who can't prove they are a "closed association" lose the privileges of a "community" TLD and run the risk of having to haggle with "TLD speculators" in the also planned TLD auctions. This especially puts small "community projects", like the .cat TLD for Catalan language and regional domains, which three years ago was the first new geographic address zone and started registering domains in 2006, at a disadvantage.
Johannes Lenz-Hawliczek, spokesman for the single-city registrar dotberlin GmbH, also thinks that particularly small projects could become impossible due to the fees involved. As examples, he pointed at the projects for regional Breton (.bzh) and Scottish (.sco) TLDs. Lenz-Hawliczek warned that a suggested annual fee of $75,000, or 5 per cent of revenue, is very high for such small initiatives.
The main hope for dotberlin is that applications won't continue to be postponed by further consultations about the application procedure. ICANN president Twomey already suggested that the application procedure needs additional work in the area of copyright protection. He said he can foresee a central database for objections by copyright owners, to prevent owners from having to pre-register their protected trade names in various sunrise procedures.
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